Swedish writers, editors, journalists demand Gui Minhai’s release
In 2020, a Chinese court sentenced the Hong Kong bookseller, who is Swedish national, to 10 years in prison for espionage, a charge Sweden and the EU dismiss as groundless. The reasons for the row between Sweden and China are multiplying.
Beijing (AsiaNews) – At least 21 Swedish publishers, journalists and writers have published a letter asking for the release of Gui Minhai, the Hong Kong bookseller with Swedish citizenship, sentenced in February 2020 to 10 years in prison by a court Chinese.
Gui, who was deprived of his political rights for five years, was convicted of providing intelligence information to a foreign power.
The appeal for his release, addressed to the new Chinese ambassador to Sweden, Cui Aimin, appeared in yesterday’s Dagens Nyheter, Sweden’s main newspaper.
Chinese authorities targeted Gui for publishing and selling texts about the lives of certain members of the Communist Party of China.
Chinese agents seized him in Thailand along with four of his associates. Brought to China, he was convicted of wrongful death in connection with a car accident in 2003.
After serving two years in prison, the bookseller was released, only to be detained again by Chinese police in January 2018.
The signatories to the appeal stress that Gui’s detention has led to a diplomatic row between Stockholm and Beijing.
All Swedish political parties, human rights groups and media view the charges against the bookseller as groundless.
Backed by the European Union, Swedish authorities have complained that they were unable to attend the trial.
Beijing has defended itself by arguing that the issue is a domestic affair, claiming that Gui applied and regained his Chinese citizenship. For Sweden he remains a Swedish citizen.
China does not recognize dual citizenship and for this reason denies Gui the right to consular assistance from Sweden.
Since Gui's first arrest, relations between China and Sweden have soured. Last year, the Chinese government orchestrated a trade boycott of foreign companies that criticised China for its inhumane treatment of Xinjiang Uyghurs.
One of the targeted companies was Sweden’s H&M after it announced that it would no longer buy cotton from the Chinese autonomous region. As a result of the boycott by Chinese consumers, the apparel company lost US$ 74 million in just three months.
UN experts, academics and human rights groups say that Xinjiang cotton is produced by forced labourers, mostly ethnic Uyghurs and other Turkic-speaking Muslims.
Yesterday, during a meeting in Stockholm with her Lithuanian counterpart Gabrielius Landsbergis, Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde expressed support for Lithuania, which has been subjected to trade restrictions by China for months.
Beijing has eliminated almost all Lithuanian imports in retaliation for the Baltic state’s decision to allow Taiwan to open a representative office under its own name.
According to the Chinese government, the failure to use the name Taipei is a violation of the one China policy. For the Communist Party of China, the island is a rebel province to be reunited with the fatherland by force if necessary.