A person on a suspended jail term on the mainland cannot leave the country without official permission and authorities would not only keep a close watch on anyone fleeing but make a real effort to track them down, say legal experts. Once the law caught up with the offender, he would have to serve his sentence in prison. This was why legal eagles and observers said they found it mystifying, and unconvincing, that Gui Minhai had eluded arrest for more than 12 years and decided to turn himself only now and – of all places – while in a foreign land. Gui – one of the five missing shareholders and staff of publishing house Mighty Current which is linked to Causeway Bay Books – disappeared in mid-October after he was last seen at his apartment in the seaside town of Pattaya in Thailand. On Sunday night, he appeared in a recorded interview broadcast by China Central Television, in which he said he had surrendered out of guilt for killing a 23-year-old student while drink-driving in Ningbo, Zhejiang province, in 2004. The confession contrasted starkly with the widely held suspicion that he was abducted by mainland law enforcement agencies in Thailand for selling books that are banned by China. Professor Fu Hualing, a legal expert on the mainland criminal justice system, said he found it “totally illogical” for Gui to turn himself in now, after being on the run for so long. “It is very shocking that after so many years Gui voluntarily went back,” said Fu. “A person, after so many years, suddenly finds his conscience and wants to return. What I can say is we have an official story but what else … is anybody’s guess.” Fu said the personal freedom of people on a suspended prison term would be curtailed and they could not leave the country lawfully without official permission. Should the person violate the condition, as in Gui’s alleged case, he or she would be placed on the wanted list immediately and would have to serve the original sentence in jail. Mainland lawyer Duan Wanjin said it was also the duty of mainland authorities to supervise the people on suspended terms and compile a report on them if they breached any terms, such as fleeing the country. The question then was: why did it take the authorities so long to seek Gui’s return? “If no such report was filed before, it would be inappropriate for the authorities to take action against him now,” said Duan, who once assisted a businessman who was “unlawfully detained” by three Hong Kong men in the city before being taken across the border in 2013. Civic Party leader Alan Leong Kah-kit, a senior counsel, found it bizarre that Gui could have turned himself in at the mainland’s liaison office in the city or even the foreign ministry here but instead chose to return via Thailand. Senior counsel Edward Chan King-sang said the CCTV footage of Gui admitting he had fled from a suspended two-year jail term would not pass muster in a real court of law as evidence of a confession. He said the case had a negative impact on the rule of law in the city and that it would be a breach of the “one country, two systems” principle if Lee Bo, another missing bookseller, had been spirited away from the city by “powerful departments”, as suggested by mainland daily Global Times .