Chinese authorities claim to have released Gui Minhai, the last of five men associated with Hong Kong publisher Mighty Current who were originally detained in late 2015. According to his daughter Angela Gui, however, his whereabouts remain unknown and he has not contacted family or friends since his alleged release on October 17.
Gui was originally abducted from his vacation home in Thailand and taken into detention on the Chinese mainland along with four of his colleagues from Mighty Current, which specializes in political exposés on the Chinese Communist Party. The other men were all released over the following year, but Swedish citizen Gui remained in detention at least through last Monday. In 2016 he appeared on state television and “confessed” to accidentally killing someone in a drunk driving incident 13 years earlier, but former fellow detainee Lam Wing Kee has publicly said the confessions he and three others gave were coerced and scripted.
The detention of the five men represented a grave breakdown in the “one country, two systems” model that China had observed in regards to Hong Kong since Great Britain ceded control of its former colony in 1997. A key point of the treaty officially known as the Sino-British Joint Declaration was that Hong Kongers would continue to enjoy freedom of speech and press.
Angela Gui today issued a press statement via the Swedish embassy in Beijing regarding her father’s alleged release. Upon notification that Gui was to be released on October 17, she said Swedish diplomatic officials went to the location where he was believed to be held–only to hear that he had been freed promptly at midnight, and Chinese authorities had no idea where he might have gone. He has not been heard from since, save for a suspicious call to the Swedish consulate in Shanghai as reported by Angela Gui:
Six days passed with no news as to my father’s whereabouts. Neither I nor any member of my family nor any of his friends have been contacted. Then on Monday the Swedish Consulate General in Shanghai received a strange phone call from someone claiming to be my father. 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’. To my knowledge my grandmother is not ill. My father is not in fact with her. It is still very unclear where he is. I am deeply concerned for his wellbeing.
As the New York Times points out, Gui’s supposed release also happens to coincide with the Chinese Communist Party’s congress which is held only twice per decade. During this “sensitive” period, dissidents “are sometimes sent on forced trips outside Beijing and other major cities until it is over.” Perhaps Gui will surface after the meeting has finished, but his daughter fears that he is instead still detained, now without even a shred of legal or diplomatic protection.
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Contributing Editor Maren Williams is a reference librarian who enjoys free speech and rescue dogs.