China has confirmed for the first time that a Hong Kong-based Swedish citizen who published and sold books critical of the Chinese government has been detained following his purported arrest last month.
At a Ministry of Foreign Affairs briefing Tuesday, a spokesman said that Gui Minhai, who was apprehended by plainclothes police on a train in January in front of Swedish diplomats, had been “subjected to criminal coercive measures.”
“Gui Minhai broke Chinese law and has already been subjected to criminal coercive measures in accordance with the law by relevant Chinese authorities,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said, also criticizing a Swedish statement issued Monday.
“I want to once again stress that China opposes any form of speech or actions that ignore China’s legal sovereignty.”
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On Monday the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs called the arrest and detention of its citizen a “very serious matter,” and said it contravened “basic international rules on consular support.”
“The brutal intervention in January against a Swedish support operation was conducted in spite of repeated assurances from the Chinese authorities that Mr Gui was free at that time,” said the statement, attributed to Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom.
“The current situation also raises questions about the application of the rule of law, including the prohibition of arbitrary deprivation of liberty. 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 Foreign Affairs spokesman, Geng, said that, “Although Gui Minhai is a Swedish citizen, the case he is involved in must be handled in accordance with Chinese law. China and Sweden are maintaining open communication channels on this case.”
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On Tuesday, Geng slammed Sweden’s handling of the incident and said that the European country should not do anything that would adversely affect bilateral relations.
“China absolutely does not accept Sweden’s ignoring China’s notifications and repeatedly making irresponsible remarks. We strongly call on Sweden not to do things that may damage mutual trust and the macro bilateral relations between the two countries.”
Link to the rest at CNN and thanks to N. for the tip.
From PEN America:
A recent video of detained Swedish bookseller Gui Minhai, in which he claims not to desire international attention for his case, fits a pattern of staged or coerced statements made at the behest of Chinese authorities, PEN America said today.
On February 9, bookseller Gui Minhai was featured in a video interview in which he accused Swedish authorities of “sensationalizing” his case and said he felt like Swedish authorities had made him a “chess piece” and that he “would never trust the Swedish ever again.” The release of Gui Minhai’s video comes days before Gui was awarded in absentia the prestigious Prix Voltaire from the International Publishers Association. During his interview, Gui reportedly disavowed the award, saying “I do not want to receive, and will not receive, this award.”
These comments come days after Chinese security agents took Gui Minhai into custody for a second time in two years. On January 20, Chinese security agents seized Gui Minhai while he was traveling with Swedish diplomatic officials to receive a medical exam. Gui has reportedly recently been exhibiting symptoms of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), symptoms which he did not appear to have before entering Chinese detention.
“It is painfully obvious that this video has been staged and that these statements are what the Chinese government wants said, and not what Gui Minhai himself want to say,” said Summer Lopez, Senior Director of Free Expression Programs at PEN America. “Gui Minhai’s claim that he has become a ‘chess piece’ of the Swedish government—as a result of their efforts to gain his freedom and to supply him with adequate medical care—are farcical. From the beginning, it is the Chinese government that has treated him as a pawn. They abducted him, moved him against his will, and kept him in illegal detention for years. This clearly-staged video is yet another demonstration of China’s lack of regard for international law or human rights.”
Gui is one of five booksellers associated with the Mighty Current Publishing House and its affiliated Causeway Bay Bookstore who were seized by Chinese security agents in late 2015, in an episode known as the “Causeway Bay Bookstore Disappearances.” Gui was detained in China for two years without charge, before being placed on supervised release but forbidden to leave China. PEN America has documented the events of the Causeway Bay Bookstore Disappearances in its 2016 report Writing on the Wall, in which it concluded that the booksellers’ “confessional” videos were staged. PEN America has also published analysis on how China’s scripted “confessional” videos often make a key point of rejecting international assistance or intervention. This includes a video in 2016 in which Gui Minhai previously stated that he did not want Swedish officials to intervene on his behalf.
Link to the rest at PEN America
From The Guardian:
Swedish bookseller Gui Minhai was transporting secret documents to the Chinese capital when he was seized last month, a Communist party-run newspaper has claimed, as Stockholm hit back at the decision to parade its citizen before the Beijing-friendly press.
Gui, a publisher of racy tomes about Chinese politics whose stranger-than-fiction tale might have been lifted from one of his own titles, was snatched on 20 January as he attempted to reach Beijing with two Swedish diplomats.
On Friday, the 53-year-old Swede resurfaced at a detention centre in the eastern city of Ningbo, telling a group of handpicked reporters Sweden had tricked him into a botched bid to flee China.
“I fell for it,” Gui told journalists from Xinhua and the Global Times, two party-run outlets, as well as Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post, which faced criticism in 2016 for printing an apparently coerced interview with a young Chinese activist.
Activists condemned what they called Gui’s “venal” forced confession with Sweden also dismissing the claims.
“This video changes nothing,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Katarina Byrenius Roslund told Reuters. “We continue to demand that our citizen be given the opportunity to meet with Swedish diplomatic staff and medical staff.”
Xinhua, China’s official news agency, claimed Gui had “applied to authorities and asked to speak the truth before media”.
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An editorial in the same newspaper, which is known for its aggressive, nationalist tone, launched a scathing attack on Stockholm. “They tricked Gui into cooperating with their plan … They wanted to arrange Gui’s ‘escape’ by breaking Chinese law,” it claimed, belittling Sweden as “a relatively small country in Northern Europe” that was trying “to demonstrate its diplomatic heroism by ‘saving the bookseller Gui Minhai’.”
Link to the rest at The Guardian