Detained Bookseller Says Sweden Is Using Him as a ‘Chess Piece’

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BEIJING—A Swedish bookseller detained by Chinese authorities surfaced Friday in a police-arranged appearance in which he accused Stockholm of using him for political gains.

The case of Gui Minhai, who was seized off a Chinese train while traveling in the company of Swedish diplomats last month, has triggered broad condemnation, with Sweden’s foreign minister decrying the act earlier this week as a “brutal intervention” and protesting a lack of consular access to its citizen.

On Friday, China’s Ministry of Public Security arranged for Hong Kong and Chinese reporters to hear from Mr. Gui at a detention facility in Ningbo, in eastern China. During the meeting, Mr. Gui told reporters that Sweden was using him as a “chess piece” to cause trouble for Beijing.

“I have stated that I do not want Sweden to continue to sensationalize what has happened to me, but obviously Sweden has not stopped doing so,” he said, according to video footage of his appearance published by the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post, which was among the media present. “My wonderful life has been ruined and I would never trust the Swedes ever again.”

Mr. Gui is a naturalized Swedish citizen who had been based in Hong Kong, where he was one of a number of local booksellers specializing in the sale of gossipy political titles, often about Chinese leaders, banned across the border in mainland China.

In 2015 while on vacation in Thailand, Mr. Gui vanished under unclear circumstances and subsequently reappeared in China, where he was jailed on an old drunken-driving charge with no indication of a trial, and then released in October 2017. In January, when he was removed from a train by plainclothes agents, he was on his way to Beijing for a medical checkup at the Swedish Embassy, according to people briefed on his case.

The Chinese government confirmed earlier this week it was detaining Mr. Gui for having violated Chinese law, without specifying the nature of those violations. The people briefed on his case said he was being held on charges related to state secrets. In his Friday appearance, Mr. Gui indicated that a case against him for running an illegal business was also pending.

Friday’s appearance wasn’t the first time Mr. Gui has made a government-sponsored appearance to quell concern over his case. In 2016, following his initial disappearance, he also appeared on Chinese state television confessing to a fatal 2003 drunken-driving accident, saying he voluntarily turned himself in to Chinese authorities.

Human-rights groups said that Mr. Gui’s Friday remarks, in addition to those he made in 2016, appeared to be heavily contrived. “There’s a long pattern of these types of forced-confession videos,” said

William Nee,

China researcher for the nonprofit Amnesty International. “This is obviously coached. He’s essentially reading government talking points.”

Asked Friday if he had any message for his daughter Angela, a Ph.D. student in the U.K. who has repeatedly appealed for international help in her father’s case. Mr. Gui said that he hoped his family would live a good life. “Don’t worry about me. I will solve my own problems myself,” he said, according to the South China Morning Post.

Mr. Nee said that Mr. Gui’s case raised deep questions over whether ethnic Chinese with foreign passports could have their rights respected in China. “Whether it’s Chinese people who’ve gained a foreign nationality or Chinese-Americans or Chinese-Swedish, I think they’re at risk if the international community doesn’t speak out.”

China’s Ministry of Public Security didn’t respond to a request for comment.

The state-backed Chinese tabloid Global Times said in an editorial earlier this week that European countries and the U.S. should inform naturalized citizens that a foreign passport “cannot be their amulet in China,” adding that China’s rule of law “is not under the thumb of the West.”

The Swedish foreign ministry said Saturday that Sweden has acted in accordance with international rules on consular support. “We continue to demand that our citizen be given the opportunity to meet with Swedish diplomatic and medical staff, and that he be released so that he can be reunited with his daughter and family.”

Write to Te-Ping Chen at [email protected]



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