Wed, Feb 07, 2018 - Page 5 News List

China says Swedish publisher being held under criminal law

AFP, BEIJING

Freed Hong Kong bookseller Lam Wing-kee stands next to a placard with a picture of Swedish bookseller Gui Minhai as protesters march to the Chinese government’s liaison office in Hong Kong on June 18, 2016.

Photo: AP

China yesterday said that Swedish book publisher Gui Minhai (桂民海) was in custody under criminal law, brushing aside Stockholm’s protests after he was seized last month under the eyes of Swedish diplomats.

Gui, 53, was arrested on a train to Beijing just more than two weeks ago while being assisted by two Swedish diplomats — the second time he has disappeared in murky circumstances into Chinese custody.

Sweden, the EU and the US have called for his release, but Chinese authorities have given scant information about Gui’s legal status.

“Because of the violation of Chinese laws, the relevant Chinese authorities have taken criminal compulsory measures against Gui Minhai,” Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Geng Shuang (耿爽) told a regular briefing, referring to a form of detention.

Geng did not indicate what charges Gui might face.

Swedish Minister for Foreign Affairs Margot Wallstrom on Monday called the seizure a “brutal intervention” that was “in contravention of basic international rules on consular support.”

The Chinese ministry said the two countries have “maintained smooth communication” on the case and rejected Stockholm’s criticism as “irresponsible.”

“The Swedish side should know the case is serious in nature and some Swedish people have played an irresponsible role in this,” Geng said. “China will never accept the irresponsible remarks made by the Swedish side and we strongly require the Swedish side to refrain from doing the things that will undermine mutual respect and overall picture of the bilateral relations.”

Gui was one of five Hong Kong-based booksellers — known for publishing gossipy titles about Chinese political leaders — who disappeared in 2015 and resurfaced in China.

Gui was on holiday in Thailand at the time. He eventually surfaced at an undisclosed location in China, confessing to involvement in a fatal traffic accident and smuggling illegal books into China.

Chinese authorities said they released him in October last year, but his daughter Angela Gui, 23, told reporters that he was under “loose house arrest” in Ningbo.

Gui is at risk of torture and other forms of ill treatment, Amnesty International China researcher William Nee said.

“Given reports of Gui Minhai’s deteriorating health, it is crucial that Gui Minhai receives adequate healthcare, is granted consular access and can meet lawyers of his own choosing,” Nee said. “The Chinese government cannot simply sidestep international law because they arbitrarily deem a case to be ‘serious.’”

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