Gui Minhai, one of the five booksellers and publishers associated with Hong Kong’s Mighty Current Media and Causeway Bay bookstore who were detained from abroad in 2015 to reappear in custody in China, was last month again taken into official custody while traveling from Ningbo to Beijing by train accompanied by two Swedish diplomats. Born in China, Gui is a naturalized Swedish citizen, and Stockholm quickly demanded his immediate release. Last week, Chinese authorities confirmed that Gui had been arrested for breaking Chinese law, but did not specify the laws in question. An op-ed from the state-affiliated Global Times suggested that Gui may have mistakenly assumed that his foreign passport would “shield” him from Chinese law, and warned other naturalized western citizens that their passports would bot be an “amulet” for their protection in China.
Gui today spoke to select media outlets today in an interview arranged by Chinese authorities at the facility he is being held at in Ningbo. The South China Morning Post’s Phil Siu reports on Gui’s claim that the Swedish government is attempting to use him as a “chess piece” to cause trouble for Beijing:
Speaking at a detention facility in Ningbo, Zhejiang province, he said: “The year 2018 is election year in Sweden … some politicians might be using me for political gains. I can’t rule out that some are trying to use me to create trouble for the Chinese government.”
The 53-year-old, mainland-born but a naturalised Swedish citizen, went on: “I have seen through the Swedish government. If they continue to create troubles, I may consider giving up my Swedish citizenship.”
[…] After the interview, the ministry issued a statement saying the authorities had imposed criminal coercive measures – a euphemism for detention – on Gui on suspicion that he leaked state secrets abroad.
[…] Asked by the Post if the Chinese authorities had forced him to face the media, he insisted he had requested the meeting to tell the public the “truth” because the Swedish government had “sensationalised” what had happened to him.
[…] He complained that the Swedish diplomats had been contacting him on a daily basis to persuade him to leave China for Sweden. [Source]
Gui is a co-owner of the Hong Kong-based Mighty Current Media and Causeway Bay Bookstore, which specialize in publishing and distributing salacious books on CCP leaders. In 2015, he was detained while at his vacation home in Thailand. The whereabouts of Gui and four of his colleagues were unknown until Gui appeared on state television issuing a confession—widely believed to be coerced—for a 2004 drunk driving charge. He was sentenced to two years in prison and released in October 2017, but has since been kept under surveillance. Another formerly detained colleague of Gui’s, Lam Wing-kee, delivered a June 2016 press conference from Hong Kong in which he described his detention, forced confession for crimes he didn’t commit, and subjection to solitary confinement.
On Twitter, China-focused journalists and rights advocates have expressed suspicion that Gui’s recent media interview in Ningbo was not truly made by his own volition:
Newspapers who accepted the invite to play along with the contrived Gui Minhai "interview" include HK's Oriental Daily & SCMP.
The second time these papers willingly partook in China's forced confession propaganda. pic.twitter.com/o0Y0JWiXiF
— Tom Grundy (@tomgrundy) February 9, 2018
So bizarre that only a HK news website’s reporter was able to meet #GuiMinhai in the detention centre. And, Gui would even say sth in the video like conspiracy theory that the Swedish diplomats accompanied him to Beijing was related to election in Sweden? https://t.co/oQgK3pprXZ
— Patrick Kar-Wai Poon 潘嘉偉? (@patrickpoon) February 9, 2018
Amnesty International continues to call for the release of Gui Minhai, and for him to be granted adequate medical care and access to consular officials and lawyers of his choice.
This sort of contrived video and media interview made in incommunicado detention is shameful.
— William Nee (@williamnee) February 9, 2018
Early this week, The Guardian’s Tom Phillips reported on Sweden’s condemnation of the “brutal” detention of Gui Minhai:
In a statement Sweden’s foreign minister, Margot Wallstrom, said: “The continued detention of the Swedish citizen Gui Minhai in China is a very serious matter.”
Wallstrom labelled the action against Gui and the two diplomats as a “brutal intervention”: “China’s actions were in contravention of basic international rules on consular support.
“We demand that our citizen be given the opportunity to meet Swedish diplomatic and medical staff, and that he be released so that he can be reunited with his daughter and family.”
The statement signals a marked escalation from Sweden which has been publicly cautious over the case ever since Gui first went missing in October 2015.
On Sunday the publisher’s daughter, Angela Gui, told the Guardian that her father’s whereabouts remained a mystery. [Source]
Philips later reported further on fears from Gui’s daughter:
The daughter of a Swedish bookseller who was seized by Chinese agents while travelling with two European diplomats has said she fears her father is facing years behind bars after police claimed he was involved in “trafficking state secrets”.
[…] Angela Gui, the publisher’s daughter, told the Guardian: “I just hope there will be an update soon. But I have to say that at this point I’m not very optimistic that we’ll have any sort of good news any time soon.”
[…] Angela Gui said: “There is no way that he would know any state secrets that wouldn’t have anything directly to do with his case. He was in incommunicado detention for two years. So who would have told him these state secrets?”
“I can only guess that it might have something to do with what happened when he was taken the first time. And that whoever ordered this didn’t want this to come out,” she added. […] [Source]
— BBC Newsnight (@BBCNewsnight) February 7, 2018