On Saturday, Chinese plainclothes police officers reportedly boarded a train and took Hong Kong bookseller Gui Minhai away. This is the second time the mainland authorities have been involved in the disappearance of Gui. He was previously involved in Causeway Bay Books which targeted after printing ‘gossipy tales about high-level Chinese politics‘ that were banned on the mainland and proved popular with visitors and Hong Kong residents.
His daughter told journalists on Monday that Gui was travelling by train to the Swedish embassy in Beijing for a medical exam ‘as he was showing symptoms of the neurological disease ALS.’ He was travelling with two Swedish diplomats at the time of his forced disappearance.
In October 2015, Gui went missing from his home in Pattaya, Thailand. He was was one of five publishers linked to Causeway Bay Books to go missing in 2015. All five later re-emerged in China, often without a clear explanation of how or why they were there. Gui reportedly returned to the mainland to confess to a drunk-driving accident that had occurred over a decade ago. He was held the longest of the five, being released last October. It is believed he was under surveillance in Ningbo in the months after his release while awaiting trial for ‘illegal book sales‘.
The spokeswoman for the Foreign Ministry, Hua Chunying, said “Any foreigner in China, including officials of foreign diplomatic missions, must not contravene international or Chinese laws. This is basic common sense and a basic principle.” This has been interpreted to mean that the diplomats travelling with Gui may have offended the authorities. It has also been suggested that Gui was travelling to the embassy to seek asylum or to complete the process of getting a new Swedish passport so he could leave the country.
The abductions of the five men linked to Causeway Bay Books raised several key concerns. Firstly, the cases suggest that the rule of law and autonomy of Hong Kong is being undermined, as the mainland authorities seek to clamp down on free expression and the flow on information.
Secondly, at least two of them men were abducted and moved across borders, without the correct paperwork or any apparent concern for recognised procedures. One of the two, Gui, is a Swedish citizen.
Chinese authorities seem to act with impunity in pursuing and silencing those who oppose them. This is worth bearing in mind for all those who are travelling to or seek to do business in China or in a territory that the Chinese Government considers to be within its realm of influence.
You can read coverage of Gui Minhai’s earlier abduction and the cases of the other Causeway Bay Books kidnappings here.
- Associated Press: Hong Kong Bookseller Detained Again By Chinese Authorities
- South China Morning Post: China suggests Swedish diplomats breached law in case of missing bookseller Gui Minhai
- The Guardian: Bookseller kidnap: China hints Swedish diplomats broke laws
- Reuters: China says it has no information on seized Swedish citizen
- Hong Kong Free Press: Sweden summons China ambassador after bookseller Gui Minhai reportedly seized from train in front of diplomats
- South China Morning Post: Hong Kong bookseller Gui Minhai ‘snatched’ by mainland Chinese authorities from train to Beijing
- BBC: Hong Kong book publisher ‘seized from China train’
- Radio Free Asia: Hong Kong Bookseller ‘Snatched’ by Police While Traveling With Swedish Diplomats
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