BEIJING: China confirmed on Tuesday that it had detained Swedish citizen and Hong Kong-based bookseller Gui Minhai, after his daughter said Chinese police had seized him from a train last month.
Gui was abducted in Thailand while on holiday in 2015, one of five Hong Kong booksellers who went missing that year and later appeared in mainland Chinese custody. The four others have returned to Hong Kong.
Hong Kong, a former British colony, returned to Chinese rule in 1997 with a guarantee of wide-ranging freedoms, including freedom of speech, but critics accuse Communist Party rulers in Beijing of creeping interference in the city’s affairs.
Angela Gui, his daughter, said in January that her father was taken from a Beijing-bound train while in the company of two Swedish diplomats who were escorting him to seek medical attention for a neurological disorder.
“Gui Minhai broke Chinese law and has already been subjected to criminal coercive measures in accordance with the law by relevant Chinese authorities,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a regular briefing.
The term “coercive measures” generally refers to detention in China.
Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström said in a statement on Monday that Gui’s continued detention is a “very serious matter” and that China’s “brutal” intervention in Sweden’s attempts to assist Gui, who Chinese authorities had said was free, represents a contravention of international rules on consular support.
“We demand that our citizen be given the opportunity to meet Swedish diplomatic and medical staff, and that he be released so that he can be reunited with his daughter and family.”
Asked about the statement, ministry spokesman Geng said that China cannot accept such “irresponsible” statements from Sweden.
“Although Gui Minhai is a Swedish citizen, the case he is suspected of must be handled in accordance with Chinese law,” he said.
Sweden should understand the serious nature of the case and the “disgraceful” role played by certain Swedish people, Geng said, without giving details.
China’s foreign ministry had previously said that Gui, who published books on the personal lives of Chinese Communist Party leaders, was released in October last year after serving a sentence for a traffic offence in 2003.
(Corrects typo in last paragraph)
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Writing by Christian Shepherd; Editing by Nick Macfie)