Missing HK publisher 'turned himself in'

Hong Kong police in front of missing-person notices for Mr Gui Minhai (left), one of five missing booksellers linked to the Mighty Current publishing house, and Hong Kong publisher Yao Wentian (right), who had been planning to release a book critical
Hong Kong police in front of missing-person notices for Mr Gui Minhai (left), one of five missing booksellers linked to the Mighty Current publishing house, and Hong Kong publisher Yao Wentian (right), who had been planning to release a book critical of Chinese President Xi Jinping and was sentenced to 10 years' jail.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

He faces action over fatal drink-driving accident in 2003: China's state media

The missing owner of a Hong Kong publishing house whose books are often critical of China's leaders had surrendered to the Chinese authorities to face action over a fatal drink- driving accident in 2003, reported Chinese state media.

Mr Gui Minhai, 51, a naturalised Swedish citizen, fled China in 2004 while on a suspended two-year jail sentence for the accident that took place in Ningbo in coastal Zhejiang province, the official Xinhua news agency reported last night.

Mr Gui, who made "confessions" in the report and also on state television last night, said he turned himself in last October after he got tired of being on the run. He also said he regretted not being able to attend the funeral of his father, who died in June last year.

The Xinhua report is the first official confirmation by China that it is holding one of the five missing people connected to the Mighty Current publishing house, which owns the Causeway Bay Books store.

Mr Gui was last seen in October last year while holidaying in the Thai seaside town of Pattaya. Xinhua said he surrendered to police but did not say where he did so.

His publishing house partner, Mr Lee Bo, 65, went missing in Hong Kong late last month, though Mr Lee's wife later claimed her husband had travelled to the mainland voluntarily. Three other employees also went missing either in Shenzhen or Dongguan in October.

The saga has sparked accusations that China kidnapped the men over a planned book about Chinese President Xi Jinping's past romances.

In particular, Mr Lee's disappearance triggered concerns that Beijing was undermining Hong Kong's autonomy under the "one country, two systems" rule.

But in the Xinhua report, Mr Gui urged others, including the Swedish government, not to get involved in his personal matters and not to blow up the issue any more.

"Although I'm a Swedish citizen, I feel that I am still a Chinese. My roots are in China. I hope the Swedish authorities can respect my personal choice, my rights and privacy, and let me settle my problems myself," he said.

It is not clear whether his remarks were made voluntarily, but it would not be the first time in recent years that China has published such "confessions" before a court conviction or a trial.

According to Xinhua, in 2003, Mr Gui, then a businessman in his Ningbo hometown, organised a dinner for associates on Dec 8. While driving a friend home that night, he knocked down a female undergraduate in her early 20s who was crossing the road.

Mr Gui was later found to have exceeded the legal drinking limit and was sentenced in August 2004 to two years' jail, which was suspended for two years.

The victim's parents, who live in Zhejiang's Hangzhou city, appealed against the sentence. Three months later, Mr Gui, who became a Swedish citizen in 1996, fled China.

But while on the run, he became guilt-stricken that being the only son, he could not take care of his parents, including his mother who is now in her 80s.

"So I had been thinking about going back to my country and turning myself in, so that I could see my mother again while she's still alive," he said.

Xinhua said Mr Gui is also being investigated for other crimes, without giving details.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 18, 2016, with the headline 'Missing HK publisher 'turned himself in''. Print Edition | Subscribe