China Denies Secret Approach to Jailed Bookseller's Daughter

china-angelagui2-020719.jpg Angela Gui is shown with her father Gui Minhai in an undated photo.
Photo provided by Angela Gui

China has denied contacting the daughter of detained Swedish national and former Hong Kong bookseller Gui Minhai in a bid to stop her talking to the press.

Angela Gui told the Svenska Dagbladet newspaper that she was contacted by an unidentified person who promised her a visa to visit her father in China, on condition she keep a low profile and promise not to talk to the press.

"It's bizarre," the newspaper quoted Gui as saying.

"They just just wanted me to keep quiet, so they can have their hands free to do whatever they want with my dad," she said.

More than three years after he was "spirited" back to mainland China from his holiday home in Pattaya, Thailand, Gui is currently being held in the eastern port city of Ningbo.

An official who answered the phone at the embassy on Thursday declined to comment.

"We have taken note of this report, and our spokesman has issued a statement in English," the official said. "You can read it on our website.

"The Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Sweden would like to solemnly state that the Chinese side has never authorized and will not authorize anyone to engage with Gui Minhai’s daughter," the embassy said in a statement on its official website.

"The Chinese side handles the Gui Minhai case in accordance with law and legal procedure," it said. "The result of the Gui Minhai case is to be decided by China’s law, instead of the so-called 'China’s representative' claimed by Gui Minhai’s daughter or the press."

"We hope that some people will not try to gain publicity for themselves by making up a so-called 'China’s representative'," it said.

'No doubt about it'

But exiled Chinese writer Zhang Pu said the unidentified person was almost certainly working on behalf of the authorities.

"That so-called intermediary would have had the Communist Party behind him, no doubt about it," Zhang said. "Of course the embassy's going to deny it; they have to play a double hand."

"This Gui Minhai business was basically a kidnapping; an act of terror," he said. "There is no rule of law under the Chinese Communist Party."

"They should release Gui Minhai. There is no room for horse-trading," Zhang said.

Bei Ling, a former chair of the writers' group Independent Chinese PEN, agreed.

"I think that this so-called middle man definitely came from within the state security system," Bei said.

"This was definitely a state security agent, or they wouldn't have approached her on China's behalf. They frequently resort to threats and blandishments."

Taken from train

After being released in China following his 2015 disappearance in Thailand, Gui was again detained in February 2018 while en route by train to Beijing in the company of two Swedish diplomats.

State security police said they suspected him of carrying “state secrets” to supply to overseas organizations, according to state media.

Bei said the outlook isn't optimistic for Gui's release in the current political climate.

"They have had international pressure to release him right from the start ... but if he isn't allowed to leave China, then it is unlikely that he will be released," Bei said.

Gui was one of five Hong Kong-based booksellers detained by the Chinese authorities for selling "banned" political books to customers across the internal border in mainland China in 2015.

He "disappeared" under murky circumstances from his holiday home in Pattaya, Thailand, on October 2015, only to reappear in China "confessing" on video to a decade-old alleged drunk-driving offense.

One of five Hong Kong booksellers detained by Chinese police for selling "banned books" to customers across the internal border in mainland China, Gui was "released" by the Chinese authorities in October 2017, but his daughter said he was still not free.

Instead, Gui was placed under various forms of control and surveillance in his birthplace, Ningbo, and had been reunited with his wife Jennifer, who is a German national, prior to his kidnapping and the fresh allegations of spying.

Reported by Ng Yik-tung and Sing Man for RFA's Cantonese Service.Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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