Authorities in the eastern Chinese city of Ningbo snatched Hong Kong bookseller from a train, where he was en route to Beijing in the company of two Swedish diplomats because they suspected him of carrying “state secrets” to supply to overseas organizations, according to state media.
Gui Minhai, whose second detention came as he traveled to Beijing to seek medical attention last month, said in videotaped comments posted to the website of Hong Kong’s Oriental Daily News, that Sweden had blown up the incident out of all proportion.
“I know that the Swedish government has been hyping up my case lately,” Gui said, adding that he had written to the Swedish government to ask it to stop issuing statements of concern for him.
“The illegal business operations case against me remains open, and I can’t leave China until it is closed,” he said, in explanation for his lack of liberty following his release from prison last year.
“The Swedish authorities have been continually in touch with me since my release, and they wanted to take me to get medical attention in Beijing,” he said.
“I really regret that this happened,” Gui said. “I think in reality I had become a chess piece to the Swedish government.”
He said reports of his illness had been exaggerated and “used,” and said Ningbo doctors had rejected the diagnosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis mentioned by his daughter Angela Gui. The neurological disease affects nerve cells responsible for controlling voluntary muscle movement.
State news agency Xinhua said Gui is now suspected of “illegally providing state secrets and intelligence overseas” and “endangering state security.”
“According to Chinese police, Gui took with him many information materials concerning state secrets [on the train to Beijing],” it said, accusing Swedish officials of trying to take Gui to Sweden.
‘Interview similar to ‘confession’
Willy Lam, China researcher at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said Gui’s statement followed a clear pattern of statements by people detained by mainland Chinese police in recent years.
“I think that he has been forced to make statements criticizing the Swedish government while in detention, because it’s very clear that by going with the two Swedish diplomats to Beijing he had been hoping to find a way to leave China,” Lam told RFA.
“Gui Minhai had said repeatedly in conversations with his daughter in the U.K. that he wanted to leave China,” Lam said. “It’s obvious that he was forced to say these things under direction.”
Writers’ group Independent Chinese PEN spokesperson Bei Ling said the sudden appearance of Gui’s “interview” in state media and pro-Beijing Hong Kong newspapers was in a similar vein to the video “confession” he made to a decade-old drunk driving conviction after being spirited away from his holiday home in Pattaya, Thailand, in October 2015, only to reappear in the custody of Chinese police.
“Any comments made by Gui Minhai when he isn’t at liberty to act according to his own wishes are extremely unreliable,” Bei told RFA.
“We hope that the Chinese government will give us a public explanation of exactly what these secret materials are that he was supposedly taking to Beijing,” he said.
“Also, whether or not he is now in detention, house arrest, or what,” Bei said. “All of these possibilities require due legal process. I haven’t yet seen a proper explanation as to why a Swedish national has been redetained shortly after his release.”
Reported by Dai Weisen for RFA’s Cantonese Service, and by Hsia Hsiao-hwa for the Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.