In a letter to the Chinese Ambassador to the United States, Cui Tiankai, the American Booksellers for Free Expression (ABFE) urged that the Chinese government release Gui Minhai, a publisher and bookseller detained by Chinese authorities in January.
On January 20, Gui, a Chinese-born Swedish national, was travelling to Beijing with two Swedish diplomats. They had been travelling to the Swedish embassy so that Gui, who suffers from ALS symptoms, could receive a medical examination when plainclothes police officers boarded the train and took the bookseller away. He reappeared in Chinese custody on February 9, appearing before Chinese media outlets and making what is believed to be a forced confession that he had been leaking state secrets. In March, Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström criticized China for preventing Gui from receiving crucial medical treatment, breaking assurances that he would be allowed to meet with a Swedish doctor.
This occasion marks the second time Gui has been detained by the Chinese government. In 2015, Gui and four other Hong Kong booksellers known for distributing satirical books critical of prominent Chinese leaders disappeared and resurfaced in police custody in China. Gui was held in custody for two years. He was released in October 2017 but remained under state surveillance. According to The Guardian, his daughter, Angela Gui, believes that the alleged “state secrets” are related to his previous abduction and mistreatment in Chinese custody.
The detention of Gui Minhai constitutes both a human rights violation and an attack on free expression, sending a clear, chilling message to booksellers and publishers in Hong Kong. ABFE asks that booksellers use the letter below as a template to send their own letter urging that Ambassador Cui ensure Gui’s access to medical treatment and a lawyer of his choice, and his swift release.
[LETTER TO AMBASSADOR]
Ambassador Cui Tiankai
Embassy of the People’s Republic of China
3505 International Place NW
Washington, D.C. 20008
Dear Ambassador Cui:
The American Booksellers Association, a not-for-profit trade association of independent booksellers throughout the United States, urges you to take action to correct the arbitrary arrest and detention by Chinese authorities of publisher/bookseller Gui Minhai by ensuring that he is released and allowed to return home to Sweden.
As you may be aware, in mid-January, Mr. Gui was traveling by train to Beijing with two Swedish diplomats when plainclothes police officers boarded at a station and led Mr. Gui away. At the time, after showing signs of ALS, Mr. Gui had been on his way for a medical examination at the Swedish Embassy, in Beijing. Mr. Gui resurfaced in the Ningbo City Detention Centre on February 9, when he appeared before Chinese media outlets, making an apparently coerced confession and statement that he did not want the help of concerned organizations or nations. On March 7, 2018, Mr. Gui was prevented from meeting with a Swedish doctor to seek treatment for ALS symptoms.
The continued harassment and detention of Mr. Gui represents an egregious violation of international human rights standards and a serious threat to free expression. Mr. Gui is co-owner of Mighty Current publishing, whose titles are regularly banned in mainland China but which are available in Hong Kong, and whose publication is protected under the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China.
Mr. Gui’s release is furthermore crucial to Chinese compliance with international standards for free expression, as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”
We hope to receive your assistance in correcting this situation in order to uphold human rights standards and to ensure the swift release of Mr. Gui. Specifically, Chinese authorities must release Gui Minhai and drop the charges against him unless there is credible evidence that he committed an internationally recognized offence. We urge that he receive unrestricted access to medical care as necessary and that he is given unrestricted access to a lawyer of his choice and his family.
David Grogan, Director, American Booksellers for Free Expression, Advocacy and Public Policy
American Booksellers for Free Expression
333 Westchester Ave, S202
White Plains, NY 10604