Concern was growing yesterday over the whereabouts of Hong Kong publisher Gui Minhai (桂民海), who failed to contact his family after Chinese authorities said they had released him from detention.
Rights group Amnesty International questioned whether he was “genuinely free” and said his safety was at risk.
“As Gui’s situation is unclear and his family still can’t get in touch with him, we are worried whether he has been placed under house arrest at an unknown location,” said Patrick Poon (潘嘉偉), a Hong Kong–based China researcher with Amnesty International. “Without access to his family and a lawyer of his own choice, he’s at risk of torture. If he’s genuinely free, we ask the Chinese government to let him contact his family immediately.”
Gui’s daughter, Angela, who has campaigned vehemently for his release, on Tuesday said that she had not heard from her father since his supposed release last week and believed he had gone missing again.
The 53-year-old Swedish citizen and Hong Kong-based publisher, whose company was known for salacious titles about the lives of China’s political elite, disappeared in 2015 while on vacation in Thailand. He had been detained at an undisclosed location in China ever since.
He was one of five men from the publishing house and its bookstore to go missing and reappear in custody in China.
In February last year Gui appeared on Chinese television, weeping as he confessed to involvement in a fatal car accident years before. In a later interview, he also admitted trying to smuggle illegal books into China.
The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Tuesday said that Gui had served his jail sentence over “a traffic accident” and was released on Tuesday last week.
The Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it had been informed by China of Gui’s release and was trying to contact him.
However, Angela said that when Swedish consular officers arrived at the undisclosed location in China on Tuesday last week, Chinese authorities told them her father had already been released and claimed they had no idea where he was.
Fellow bookseller Lam Wing-kee (林榮基), who jumped bail on a return visit to Hong Kong to give an explosive account of his abduction and interrogation, said he believed Gui would now be living under “residential surveillance,” with his movements restricted and closely monitored.
“This approach is not a first for China,” he said.
Lam said the other three booksellers who had been released from detention were also under restrictions, including their freedom to travel.
Angela said the Swedish consulate in Shanghai had received a “strange phone call” on Monday from someone claiming to be Gui.
“He was speaking Swedish and claimed that he intended to apply for a Swedish passport in one or two months, but that before doing so he wanted to spend some time with his mother ‘who is ill’,” she said. “To my knowledge my grandmother is not ill. My father is not in fact with her.”
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