China: Imprisoned Bookseller At Risk Of Ill-Treatment

Gui Minhai (c) private
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Gui Minhai was one of the five Hong Kong–based publishers and booksellers who disappeared in 2015 after printing books critical of the Chinese government. Mighty Current Media and the Causeway Bay Bookstore that Gui Minhai led were known for their books on Chinese leaders and political scandals, which are banned in mainland China but are popular with mainland Chinese tourists visiting Hong Kong. The detention and disappearance of Gui Minhai and the other booksellers had a chilling effect on the climate for freedom of expression and publishing in Hong Kong and the Chinese-speaking world.

Gui Minhai’s case drew international attention after he first went missing in Thailand on 17 October 2015, about the same time that three of his company colleagues also went missing. Another associate, Lee Bo, was taken away from Hong Kong on 30 December 2015. Gui Minhai later appeared on Chinese state television in January 2016 to give a choreographed “confession” regarding an alleged traffic incident that took place in 2003. Many believe that the drunk driving charge was simply a pretence to detain Gui Minhai and shut down his publishing business.

In October 2017, Gui Minhai was “released” after he had, according to the Chinese Foreign Ministry, “completely served the sentence imposed for a traffic offence”; however, his daughter Angela Gui has since raised concerns that Gui Minhai remained under state surveillance and monitoring after his supposed release. On 20 January 2018 while on a train from Ningbo to Beijing and accompanied by two Swedish diplomats helping him to get medical care, Gui Minhai was suddenly taken away by approximately 10 plainclothes officers. He has not been seen since. On 25 February 2022, Angela renewed her call for the immediate release of her father after Olympic speed skating champion Nils van der Poel handed her his Beijing 2022 gold medal in protest of human rights violations in China.

In China, dissidents including writers, academics and journalists are systematically subjected to monitoring, harassment, intimidation, arrest, and prosecution. The Hong Kong National Security Law enacted on 1 July 2020 has also given the Hong Kong government free rein to crack down on freedom of expression in an unprecedented manner. Numerous [or give the figure] activists have been charged under the law for their peaceful activities. Many civil society organizations, trade unions and news organizations have closed under the threat of the NSL In a major censorship purge, numerous books were removed from the city's public libraries. Three speech therapists were charged with conspiring to publish and circulate seditious material after publishing children’s books mocking the government. 

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