More than twenty Swedish publishers and writers have, in an open letter to China’s new Ambassador to Sweden, called for the release of Chinese-Swedish bookseller Gui Minhai, who is serving ten years in prison on charges of illegally providing intelligence abroad.
Gui Minahi was born in Ningbo, China in 1964 and came to Sweden as a young student. He was later granted permanent residency in Sweden before he moved back to Hong Kong where he opened a bookstore and started a publishing house. He is an author of many books related to Chinese politics, Chinese political figures and is known to have previously published books on the personal lives of Chinese Communist Party members. At that time Hong Kong was a democratic breathing space in the one-party state but the Chinese state has since under President Xi Jinping taken an iron grip on the city, strangled its economy, and imprisoned opposition figures including Gui Minhai.
Gui Minhai was detained in 2015 by the Chinese state at his holiday apartment in Thailand and five years later, he was sentenced to ten years in prison for a series of alleged crimes.
The open letter was published in several major Swedish newspapers on 31 January and signed by 21 authors, literary figures, and culture editors for Sweden’s main dailies, as well as Gui’s Swedish publisher Martin Kaunitz.
The letter sends congratulations on the Chinese New Year and at the same time reminds of the fate of the Swedish-Chinese publisher. Amongst other things the authors write:
“Mr. Ambassador, the name you will hear most in Swedish-Chinese relations is Gui Minhai.
All Swedish (political) parties, freedom of speech organizations, and leading Swedish newspapers demand that Gui Minhai be immediately released.”
“We do not want Gui Minhai to be forced to celebrate another New Year’s weekend in prison. We want you to speed up Gui Minhai’s freedom.”
In the letter, the authors argue that China has arrested Gui on “loose grounds”. The allegation that he provided intelligence to a foreign country “seems to have been pulled out of thin air and casts long shadows over China”, the authors state.
“Mr. Ambassador, we hope you will act differently from your predecessor, who often refused to respect freedom of expression. In addition, he let his employees persecute the Swedish mass and broadcast media with unpleasant emails.” the authors write.
China insists the matter of Gui Minhai is an internal affair and has been stung by criticism from Sweden.
Gui was born in China, which does not recognize dual citizenship. Chinese officials claimed he voluntarily reinstated his Chinese citizenship in 2018. Sweden insists he remains a citizen.