European politicians call on Beijing to release Gui Minhai immediately and unconditionally

A group of 37 European politicians sign a letter calling for his release. They are in favour of relations with China, but not at the price of the safety of European citizens. Gui is not the first, but he must be the last. China is pursuing a "disturbing pattern of repression" against human rights activists.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – A group of 37 European politicians demand that Gui Minhai be released "immediately and unconditionally release” in a letter sent to Chinese President Xi Jinping two days ago, but published yesterday.

Hong Kong bookseller Gui Minhai, who holds dual Chinese and Swedish citizenship, was detained last month by Chinese police as he travelled to Beijing for medical treatment together with two Swedish diplomats.

Sweden immediately called for his release, triggering Beijing's reaction. A few days later, China’s Ministry of Public Security arranged a meeting between Gui and Chinese and Hong Kong media.

In the 20-minute interview, Gui said he had requested the meeting because he wanted to tell the public the “truth” after the Swedish government had “sensationalised” events. However, he appeared unable to answer some questions, such as why he was arrested.

In their letter, the European lawmakers urge Xi, “Pending his release, [. . .] to ensure he is protected from torture and other ill-treatment, allowed access to diplomatic staff, his family and lawyers of his choice, and to adequate medical care.”

In their statement, they note that Gui is not the first EU citizen to be “wrongfully detained” in China, but they want to ensure that he is the last one.

They cite the case of Swedish national and human rights activist Peter Dahlin, who was arrested in early January 2016 and forced to read a confession on Chinese law.

Dahlin later said he was made to read from a script and that authorities tried to deprive him of sleep by keeping fluorescent lights on in his cell at night.

“These cases,” the statement goes on to say, “are part of a disturbing pattern of repression, the main victims of which are Chinese human rights defenders, activists and lawyers, targeted for their peaceful human rights activities both inside and outside China’s borders”.

What is more, “While the European Parliament supports the goal of collaborative, respective relations with China, we will not allow that to come at the cost of our citizens’ safety. Your government’s releasing Gui Minhai immediately and unconditionally, and allowing him to leave China, is a critical test of that commitment.”