China says publisher freed, but family refutes claim

Mr Gui Minhai was freed on Oct 17, said Beijing. He had been detained at an undisclosed location in China since 2015.
Mr Gui Minhai was freed on Oct 17, said Beijing. He had been detained at an undisclosed location in China since 2015.

STOCKHOLM • Sweden said yesterday that China had informed it of the release of dissident publisher Gui Minhai, a Swedish citizen born in China who wrote political gossip books about Chinese leaders.

However, his daughter quickly cast doubt on the claim, saying she had not yet heard from him.

Mr Gui, a 53-year-old Hong Kong publisher who often wrote about leaders from the Chinese Communist Party, disappeared in 2015 while on vacation in Thailand and has been detained at an undisclosed location in China ever since.

Last year, he appeared on Chinese television, weeping as he confessed he had committed a traffic violation. During another interview in the same year, he also confessed to trying to smuggle illegal books into China.

"We have received information from the Chinese authorities that he has been released," Swedish Foreign Ministry spokesman Sofia Karlberg said, without specifying when Mr Gui had been freed.

China's Foreign Ministry said Mr Gui was freed on Oct 17.

"According to what we understand, because Gui Minhai has served his sentence for the crime of causing traffic accident casualties, he was released on Oct 17," the ministry said in an e-mail statement.

 
 

But his daughter, Ms Angela Gui, refuted the announcement and said that she and her family have not heard anything from him or about his whereabouts.

"Neither I nor any member of my family nor any of his friends have been contacted," she said in a statement. On Twitter, she wrote: "Gui Minhai has disappeared again, likely by the Chinese government."

Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom tweeted that she was "seeking further clarification" on Mr Gui's announced release.

On Monday, the Swedish Consulate-General in Shanghai received a "strange phone call from someone claiming to be" Mr Gui, his daughter said.

"He was speaking Swedish and claimed that he intended to apply for a Swedish passport in one or two months, but that before doing so, he wanted to spend some time with his mother who is ill," Ms Gui added.

"To my knowledge, my grandmother is not ill. My father is not in fact with her."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 25, 2017, with the headline 'China says publisher freed, but family refutes claim'. Print Edition | Subscribe