Sun, Feb 11, 2018 - Page 1 News List

Missing bookseller hits out at Sweden in staged interview

AP, BEIJING

A detained Swedish bookseller at the center of an escalating row between Western governments and Beijing has accused Sweden of using him as a “chess piece” in a media appearance arranged by Chinese police.

Gui Minhai (桂民海), a Hong Kong-based publisher who sold books of gossip about Chinese leaders, on Friday told several outlets, including the South China Morning Post, that he never wanted to leave China and that Stockholm has been using his case to “create trouble” for the Chinese government.

The statement from Gui, who spoke in a detention facility flanked by police, was immediately denounced by rights activists as coerced. In putting Gui before the media this week, Chinese state security appeared to be responding to Swedish Minister of Foreign Affairs Margot Wallstrom, who on Monday sharply questioned the rule of law in China and blasted Beijing’s “brutal” treatment of Gui after weeks of relatively mild pleas for his release.

Gui was seized last month by 10 plainclothes agents while traveling on a train with Swedish diplomats apparently trying to escort him out of the country.

In a 20-minute appearance, Gui told reporters that officials in Sweden had “sensationalized” his case for political purposes ahead of this year’s general election, the Post said.

The newspaper said it was approached by the Chinese Ministry of Public Security about an interview on Wednesday — a day after Wallstrom’s statement — and it agreed to take part, provided that it could ask any questions it wanted.

“Looking back, I might have become Sweden’s chess piece. I broke the law again under their instigation,” Gui was quoted by the Post as saying. “My wonderful life has been ruined and I would never trust the Swedish ever again.”

The Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs did not immediately comment on Gui’s interview when reached by reporters, but ministry spokesman Patric Nilsson on Friday told Swedish media that Gui’s comments would not sway Sweden’s calls for his release, which have been echoed by Germany, the EU and the US.

“We have a clear demand that he be set free, so that he can meet his family,” Nilsson told the Swedish TT news agency.

The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs heavily criticized Sweden for advocating on Gui’s behalf and warned against efforts to interfere in Chinese judicial matters.

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