Swedish police join search for HK bookseller

BANGKOK • Swedish detectives have travelled to Thailand to look into the disappearance of a Hong Kong-based bookseller who vanished in the kingdom and later resurfaced in Chinese custody, Thai police said yesterday.

Mr Gui Minhai, a Swedish national, went missing from his flat in the resort city of Pattaya in October.

He was one of five people from a Hong Kong publishing house known for producing salacious titles critical of Chinese leaders to have disappeared in recent months as Beijing pursues dissidents far beyond the country's borders.

Major-General Apichart Suriboonya, head of the Thai Foreign Affairs Police, said Swedish officers had arrived in the kingdom. "They came here, not for investigation because they have no legal rights to do so. But they have been sent to help expedite the Thai police investigation," he said.

Hong Kong newspaper Apple Daily reported that Swedish detectives visited Mr Gui's apartment on Wednesday, interviewing residents and taking copies of the building's surveillance footage.

Maj-Gen Apichart did not comment on the reports, nor did the Swedish Embassy in Bangkok.

Mr Gui is one of at least three Beijing critics who have disappeared in recent months in Thailand, raising alarms that Thai military rulers are secretly sending dissidents back to China or allowing the Chinese free rein to pursue them on Thai soil.

The New York Times has reported that a fourth man, Chinese dissident journalist Li Xin, went missing a little over a fortnight ago while trying to seek refuge in Thailand.

Thailand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it had no information on Mr Li but that Thai and Swedish officials were "cooperating" on Mr Gui's disappearance.

Chinese state television earlier this month broadcast a video of Mr Gui confessing to a years-old mainland drink-driving offence and saying he did not want Stockholm to interfere with his case.

Sweden has previously condemned China's detention of Mr Gui, and the recent arrest and eventual release of Swedish human rights activist Peter Dahlin, as "unacceptable".

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 30, 2016, with the headline 'Swedish police join search for HK bookseller'. Print Edition | Subscribe