Detained Hong Kong bookseller Gui Minhai reunited with family, friend says
Dissident poet confirms news of publisher’s release, saying Gui is living in Ningbo and intends to head to Germany
Hong Kong-based bookseller Gui Minhai has been reunited with his family in the Chinese city of Ningbo following his release from custody on the mainland last week, his long-time friend said on Friday.
Dissident poet Bei Ling, co-founder of the Independent Chinese PEN Centre, said Gui hoped to travel to Germany, if police in China let him. He said Gui had spent a lot of time in Germany, where reports have suggested he owns property.
Gui was among five booksellers linked to publisher Mighty Current who went missing in 2015 and later resurfaced in the custody of mainland agents. Mighty Current specialised in political gossip about the Chinese leadership.
“He told his family members that he wishes to go to Germany,” Bei said over the phone from Boston, in the United States.
“But for now, it is not clear if the Chinese authorities will allow him to leave China.”
Gui had already met up with his wife, who holds a German passport, and his sisters and mother, Bei said. Gui has not seen his daughter, Angela, since his release.
The poet claimed he got the information from Gui’s family. He also said that Gui, a mainland-born naturalised Swedish citizen, called the Swedish consulate in Shanghai to tell staff there he would apply for a new passport.
Asked about Bei’s claims, the Swedish foreign ministry said: “We have received similar reports to those circulating in the media. We are now following them up in all of our channels.”
The ministry said that “questions still remain” and so it was keeping in high-level contact with Chinese authorities in both Beijing and Stockholm.
Separately, China’s foreign ministry spokesman, Geng Shuang, said on Friday that Gui left on his own after he was released last Tuesday.
“He will enjoy true freedom only if he is allowed to leave China. If he cannot leave China, he could end up just like Liu Xia,” Bei said, referring to the widow of late Nobel laureate and political dissident Liu Xiaobo. Liu Xia has been under house arrest since 2010, with her whereabouts unclear at present.
Bei said Gui was living in a flat in Ningbo, Zhejiang province. He said that he was not sure if this had been arranged by police, and that he could not tell if Gui was truly free.
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Ningbo, south of Shanghai, is the same city where another of the Mighty Current five, book store manager Lam Wing-kee, said he was held during his detention.
Gui’s daughter, Angela Gui, said in a message on Friday that she was not in a position to comment, saying there were still many things that needed to be clarified.
She had been active in campaigning for her father’s release. Her stepmother, Jennifer, has never publicly spoken on the matter.
China’s foreign ministry said earlier that Gui Minhai had been released from detention over a “traffic offence”, having “completely served the sentence”.
This referred to Gui’s earlier confession on state television that he had surrendered to mainland Chinese authorities for a death he caused while drink-driving in 2003.
The ministry made no mention of the earlier accusation that Gui had run an “illegal business” since October 2014, delivering about 4,000 books banned on the mainland across the border to 380 customers.
Watch: Timeline of the bookseller disappearances
The saga began in October 2015 when Gui vanished from Pattaya, Thailand. He was said to have been kidnapped by Chinese agents.
His publishing associates Lam, Cheung Chi-ping and Lui Por went missing while on the mainland. Another associate, Lee Po, disappeared under similar circumstances from Hong Kong.
All five eventually surfaced on the mainland, appearing on state media to say they had gone there voluntarily.
The disappearances, in particular Lee’s on Hong Kong soil, sparked anger over mainland interference in the semi-autonomous city.
Lam later claimed in dramatic detail, upon returning to Hong Kong in June last year, that he had been kidnapped at the border and put through eight months of mental torture in Ningbo.