'Freed' HK bookseller seized again by Chinese agents

'Freed' HK bookseller seized again by Chinese agents

Hong Kong (HK) publisher and bookseller Gui Minhai has been seized again by Chinese agents on suspicion of sharing secret information with Swedish diplomats. 

The abduction would be the second in two years for Gui, 53, who is a HK-based Swedish citizen, widely believed to have been abducted in October 2015 from his Thai holiday home and detained in China because of the books he published at Causeway Bay Books critical of the Chinese government.

He was reported to have been officially "released" by Chinese authorities on 17th October 2017, having supposedly travelled to China's mainland to turn himself in over a decade-old drink-driving incident. However, neither his family nor the Swedish embassy heard from him for months after he was supposedly "freed", believing him to be living under police surveilance in a flat in the Chinese city of Ningbo. 

Now on Saturday, according to his daughter, Gui was snatched from a Beijing-bound train while being escorted by two Swedish diplomats to the capital to receive medical treatment from a Swedish doctor who had been flown in.

Angela Gui, a graduate student based in the UK, told Radio Sweden that on Saturday (20th January) 10 men in plain clothes boarded the train at one of the stops before Beijing, and, claiming to be from the police, "grabbed him and took him away". 

She said it is "quite clear he has been abducted again", perhaps as a precaution against him leaving the country, and added that she was particularly worried for his health; he was due to be treated for a neurological disease called ALS that had developed since he was taken into custody in 2015.

"I think it's quite clear he has been abducted again and he is being held somewhere at a secret location. Especially given his health status, that is worrying," Angela Gui told Radio Sweden. "I'm not sure why this has happened. It was quite clear when he was under this form of house arrest in Ningbo that they weren't going to let him leave. This might be an escalated way of making sure he doesn't.

"I can't say I'm entirely surprised this has happened but equally it wasn't anything anybody expected or he wouldn't have taken that train. I don't know if this marks a drastic change in how my dad's case is dealt with by the Chinese police or if I'll be able to speak to him soon. I of course hope he will be allowed to travel back to Sweden immediately, but it doesn't look very likely at the moment."

According to the New York Times, in the aftermath of Gui's seizure, Chinese officials reportedly told Swedish diplomats that they suspected Gui of sharing "secret information" with Swedish diplomats and of meeting them illegally. Commenting on this, Angela Gui told the paper further: "Obviously, they’ve acknowledged that he’s a Swedish citizen. How that is a crime is difficult to comprehend."

Swedish foreign ministry spokesman Patric Nilsson confirmed to Swedish media that Gui had been taken away. He promised "firm action" was being taken "at a high political level" and the situation would be "handled with the utmost seriousness". Foreign minister Margot Wallstrom said she had summoned China’s ambassador over the issue. 

Amnesty International has described the incident as "absolutely appalling" while PEN America condemned it "an outrageous violation of the rule of law, human rights, and free expression", urging the international community to speak up in Gui's defence.

"China’s treatment of publisher Gui Minhai—a story of abduction, detention, and now denial of medical care—demonstrates flagrant disregard for the rule of law and human rights," said Summer Lopez, Senior Director of Free Expression Programs at PEN America.

"China’s reported claims that it believes Gui has been sharing ‘secret information’ with Swedish diplomats is laughable—the only information that Gui would have to share would be on his own mistreatment at the hands of Chinese security forces. The entire international community should condemn this outrageous act."