Chinese Authorities Blacklist Icelander In Response To Sanctions

Minister Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarsson.

An Icelandic lawyer has been blacklisted by Chinese authorities over his vocal critique of China-related matters, mbl.is reports. While he is not likely to be affected by the measures, Minister for Foreign Affairs Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson has called the blacklisting “unacceptable.” Iceland has recently agreed to participate in sanctions against China with several other nations over the treatment of Uighurs in Xinjiang.

An Icelandic man working as a lawyer was called to a meeting in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs last Friday where he was notified that he was the only Icelander on the Chinese authorities’ blacklist, mbl.is reports. Among the repercussions are a China travel ban and financial assets in China, if any, are frozen.

Iceland’s ambassador in Beijing Gunnar Snorri Gunnarsson was notified of the Chinese authorities’ decision yesterday. Sveinn H. Guðmarsson, a representative from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs told mbl.is that Icelandic authorities objected to the decision. The Icelandic ambassador in Beijing objected to the representative of the Chinese Ministry for foreign affairs when he received the news and the Chinese ambassador to Iceland had a meeting in the ministry of foreign affairs where the objections were repeated. “It was also pointed out that Icelanders have full freedom of expression. This individual is in no way responsible for any Icelandic government actions that authorities in China might disagree with, Sveinn told mbl.is.

The blacklisted individual is Jónas Haraldsson. He told mbl.is that he was notified that the action against him was due to his criticism of the Chinese embassy, China’s part in the COVID-19 pandemic and Chinese tourists. Jónas added that he was proud of being the only Icelander who was on the Chinese list. He also told RÚV that the blacklist wasn’t likely to affect him as he had no assets in China and no plans to travel there.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson stated that Chinese government tactics to punish people for using exercising their freedom of expression in countries where is unacceptable. “I think the polite word to use is that it’s completely unacceptable to apply this to an Icelandic citizen just for using their freedom of expression. We made the very clear to Chinese authorities both here in Reykjavík as well as in Beijing.” Despite Iceland’s protests, Guðlaugur does not believe that Chinese authorities will change their minds.

Last month, Iceland agreed to participate in sanctions against China along with nations such as the US, the UK, Canada, Norway and the nations of the EU. Iceland has criticised China’s behaviour towards the Uighurs both in the united nation’s human rights Commission and in communication with the Chinese authorities.

The Chinese Embassy posted a statement on their website last Friday, confirming that the blacklisting was a response to Iceland’s participation in the sanctions:

“Based on nothing but lies and disinformation, Iceland follows EU’s unilateral sanctions on relevant Chinese individuals and entity, citing the so-called human rights issues in Xinjiang. This move breaches international law and basic norms of international relations, and severely undermines China-Iceland relations. The Chinese Foreign Ministry has summoned Icelandic Ambassador to China to lodge solemn representations, expressing firm opposition and strong condemnation. China has decided to impose reciprocal sanctions on one individual on the Icelandic side who seriously harms China’s sovereignty and interests by maliciously spreading lies and disinformation.

China is firmly determined to safeguard its national sovereignty, security and development interests. We demand that Iceland should truly respect China’s sovereignty, security, and development interests, and stop interfering in China’s internal affairs under the pretext of human rights issues.”

Russia’s Embargo of Iceland Still Stands Four Years Later

Today, fours years have passed since Russia placed a trade embargo on Iceland. Previously, Iceland had officially supported sanctions placed on Russia by the EU, USA, and more Western nations. The sanctions followed Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the war in Ukraine. Russia thus placed a trade embargo on Iceland, along with several other western countries, on August 14 2015. The sanctions placed on Russia involved politicians, wealthy individuals, and weapons trade, amongst other things, while Russia’s embargo mostly focused on consumer goods, especially food.

Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson, Iceland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, says it’s imperative that Iceland continues to take a stance with the nations which believe international laws should be respected. Therefore, it would be unwise to concede to the embargo and switch Iceland’s stance at this point in time. “International laws were broken quite crudely. We witnessed a change of borders by force, which we have not seen the like of since World War II,” he stated. The Icelandic government initially considered withdrawing its support of sanctions against Russia, but ultimately decided to uphold the sanctions.

Fishing industry affected
The Icelandic fishing industry has lobbied hard against Iceland’s stance on the matter from the beginning. Fisheries Iceland, an association of fishing companies, believe that Iceland’s continued participation in the sanctions against Russia leads to severe losses for them. The association states on its website that the Icelandic’s government actions are a ‘useless sacrifice’ in an article released on the four-year juncture of the embargo. According to them, Iceland has been proportionally hit the hardest by the embargo as 90% of the exports to Russia were derived from the fishing industry. The value of trade balance to Russia, which has not included service business and used ships for the last four years, has reduced severely.

The value of trade to Russia was ISK 26 billion (€187m, $209m) in 2014 but stood at ISK 4 billion (€29m, $32m) in 2018. The largest part of the reduction has taken place in exports related to the fishing industry. Fisheries Iceland state that even though new markets have been found for goods which previously went to Russia, the augmented value is significantly less.

“No industry, or at least very few, depends on international laws being respected as much as the fishing industry. We can’t take this out of context. It’s in the interest of everyone to abide by international laws, but especially so for the smallest,” Guðlaugur Þór stated, alluding to Iceland’s size in today’s globalized world. He mentioned that trade with Russia is increasing in other industries. High-tech companies will likely increase foreign exchange earnings significantly following recent contracts made with Russian food manufacturing companies. “Since I arrived in the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, and probably before that time as well, we’ve been hard at work to increased trade between Iceland and Russia. Luckily, we’re seeing the fruit of our labour in a significant increase between years, even though it is not in the same industries as before they placed the embargo on us,” Guðlaugur stated.

For those wishing to read the article from the Fisheries Iceland, it can be found here in Icelandic: https://sfs.is/greinar/vidskiptabannid-a-russa-gagnslaus-forn/