EU ambassador says he expects release of Swedish citizen detained by China

This screengrab taken from Chinese state broadcaster CCTV footage in Beijing shows Gui Minhai speaking in an interview broadcast, on Jan 17, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

BEIJING (REUTERS) - The European Union's Ambassador to China said on Wednesday (Jan 24) he expects Chinese authorities to immediately release Swedish citizen and Hong Kong-based bookseller Gui Minhai, echoing demands from Stockholm.

Sweden confirmed on Tuesday that Gui, who has published books on the personal lives of Chinese Communist Party leaders, was taken into custody at the weekend while travelling with Swedish diplomats to seek medical treatment in Beijing.

EU Ambassador to China Hans Dietmar Schweisgut told reporters at a briefing that the EU "fully supports" Sweden's efforts to resolve the issue with China.

"We expect the Chinese authorities to immediately release Gui Minhai from detention and to allow him to reunite with his family, to get consulate support and medical support in line with his rights, because he is a Swedish citizen and also a citizen of the European Union," Schweisgut said.

Gui was abducted in Thailand while on holiday in 2015, one of five Hong Kong booksellers who went missing that year and later appeared in custody on mainland China. The four others have returned to Hong Kong.

Chinese authorities said Gui was freed in October after serving a two-year sentence for a traffic offence in 2003.

Sweden's Foreign Ministry said in an earlier statement that, before Gui's latest detention, it had been "repeatedly assured" by Chinese authorities that Gui was a free man and that it could "have any contact" with him.

It has said it expects China to release Gui so that he can meet diplomatic and medical staff, and has also twice summoned China's ambassador to Stockholm to explanation the situation.

China's Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday it had no specific information on Gui, who his daughter Angela says was taken off a train by plainclothes police while en route to the capital to get medical attention for a neurological ailment.

Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying said then that Sweden and China enjoy good communication and "if there are any problems ..., (we) can conduct timely and effective dialogue. This is no problem at all".

China's Ministry of Public Security has not responded to a request for comment on the incident and it has not been possible to reach the Ministry of State Security, which has no website and does not have a publicly available telephone number.

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