Hong Kong Chief Executive CY Leung hints there’s little he can do about detained bookseller – but Stockholm demands more ‘openness’
Swedish deputy minister for finance Per Bolund says easiest way to ‘resolve all the questions that have arisen’ is to let Swedish authorities see Gui Minhai
Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying hinted on Monday morning that there is little he can do about the situation with Gui Minhai, the Hong Kong bookstore co-owner who has allegedly surrendered to the mainland authorities over a fatal drink-driving accident from a decade ago – as Gui’s disappearance had not been reported to the city’s police.
Asked about the case on the sidelines of the Asian Financial Forum, Leung said: “The Gui Minhai case has not been reported to the Hong Kong police or the government ... The mainland and Hong Kong media have carried reports on Mr Lee Bo and related cases. We attach a great deal of importance to any information that would help the police and the government to understand the case better.”
Speaking exclusively to the Post at the same event, Swedish deputy minister for finance Per Bolund said Stockholm “is quite concerned about the development”, asking for more “openness” from the mainland authorities.
READ MORE: Missing Hong Kong bookseller says he turned himself in for 2004 drunk driving death on state TV
Chinese-born Swedish national Gui is one of five shareholders and staff of Causeway Bay Books, a store specialising in political books banned on the mainland, who have gone missing since last October.
In a recorded interview broadcast on Sunday night by China Central Television, Gui said he had surrendered to mainland authorities after being on the run since killing a 23-year-old university student while drink-driving in Ningbo, Zhejiang province in 2004.
Watch: Missing Hong Kong bookseller paraded on China's state-run television
The Swedish government has said it will press on with demanding “openness” over the facts surrounding Gui’s detention, even though he had urged Stockholm not to interfere during the broadcast.
Bolund said: “We encourage the Chinese authorities to show us much openness, and provide information and contact between the Swedish authorities and the detainee.”
Gui said in the CCTV interview that he hoped Swedish authorities would stay away from “my own problems”, but Bolund insisted that a way “to resolve this question is to enable Swedish authorities to meet Gui Minhai himself”.
“This is, of course, the preferable option. I really hope that the Chinese authorities will see this need and that it would be the easiest way to resolve all the questions that have arisen,” he added.
Bolund added that Stockholm has discussed these questions with Chinese authorities, and expressed how important it was to “try to cooperate on these issues”.
When asked by the Post whether he would offer assistance to Gui’s family or go to Beijing to seek answers, the chief executive said: “We will do whatever we can to understand the cases, and report if it won’t affect the investigation.”
“We are concerned about Gui’s case as it is related to Lee’s,” Leung said, referring to Lee Bo, the most recent of the five booksellers to vanish. Some fear that Lee was abducted from the city by mainland enforcement officers.
On Lee’s case, Leung said: “The government will continue to investigate, and mainland authorities have yet to respond to our enquiry ... We will continue to ask different authorities to respond as soon as possible.”
Even though Leung said Hong Kong police did not receive a report, the Post learnt that police officers visited Gui’s Hong Kong residence in early January, months after Gui disappeared in October.
On January 4, three officers went to Gui’s three-bedroom flat in a waterfront high-rise in Tsuen Wan and made inquiries, building managers who have knowledge of the matter told the Post.
“I remembered I had last seen him in the building lobby in mid-October, and he told me that he was heading to Thailand,” the building manager said. “I knew that Gui had some properties overseas, including in Thailand, and it looked to me that there was nothing unusual.”
Gui stayed at his Hong Kong house for only a limited period of time, several weeks for instance, each time building managers caught sight of him.
“Although he owns another flat of similar kind nearby, as far as I’m concerned, Gui mostly lived here when in Hong Kong,” the building manager said.
Gui’s wife and daughter, who live in Europe, would also come over for a short-term stay at the 700-odd sq ft flat during the last two years. But the two had never been seen in the building since Gui’s last chat with the building manager in October, the Post learned.
“He looks a bit overweight,”the building manager said. “He used to mention to me that he was a graduate of Peking University.”
The manager said he was not aware of any recent lease or ownership transactions concerning the Tsuen Wan residence, although none of the Guis had stayed there since mid-October.
A commentary published by a state-run conservative newspaper on Monday argued that Hongkongers should let Gui “solve his own problem”. The piece appeared in the Global Times after Gui’s television appearance on Sunday.
“It is apparently problematic for a man to stay in Hong Kong and continue his activities in harming Chinese society after being charged,” the commentary stated. “Some Hongkongers have been studying the case under a microscope after [Gui] surrendered, but his secret ... has been hidden for years. Those Hongkongers’ attention to legal affairs is clearly highly selective.”
There have been a number of legal cases on the mainland concerning Swedish nationals recently, the commentary reads, but “the reaction of the Swedish government and its public opinion is milder than that of some Hongkongers”.
The author urged Hongkongers to stop politicising the case and take a broader perspective, arguing the judicial branches of Hong Kong and the mainland should be allowed to resolve the case, concerning a Hong Kong resident who had breached mainland law and threatened the country’s security, through deliberation.
“[Gui’s] experience and crime are too special,” the commentary said. “He has said he wants to ‘solve his own problem’, and he should be allowed to face the law himself.”
Gui’s daughter, who is based in Britain, said earlier that she had never heard of the drink-driving case and believed her father was abducted because of his work.