image

Hong Kong bookseller disappearances

Detained Causeway Bay bookseller Gui Minhai not seen by Swedish diplomats for more than three months, says consul general

Gui, one of the Causeway Bay booksellers, has been held on the mainland for eight months without formal charge

PUBLISHED : Monday, 06 June, 2016, 12:33pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 07 June, 2016, 1:29am

China has denied Sweden access to Gui Minhai, a Swedish national and bookseller detained on the mainland for more than three months, the country’s top diplomat in Hong Kong has told the Post.

The unresolved case cast a shadow over the Swedish consulate’s 60th anniversary in the city yesterday.

Gui disappeared from his home in Pattaya, Thailand, before resurfacing on the mainland and making confessions on state TV. He has been held for eight months without formal charge, accused of ordering his associates to smuggle about 4,000 banned books from Hong Kong into the mainland since October 2014.

Gui was one of five booksellers operating in the city whose disappearances sparked widespread speculation that they had been abducted by mainland agents acting illegally.

“We are of course very worried to see a Swedish citizen … displayed on national TV to confess a crime,” Helena Storm, Sweden’s consul-general to Hong Kong and Macau, said. “The case has been widely reported in Sweden.”

Her government had continued to “request answers on the legal process and any charges against him”, the diplomat said. “We expect these accusations to be dealt with within the framework of the rule of law.”

Swedish diplomats in Beijing visited Gui on February 24, the first and only time mainland authorities granted Sweden consular access. Storm also contacted “several representatives” from the Hong Kong government, though she conceded they could not be of much help.

Starting in October last year, five men linked to the Mighty Current publishing house and Causeway Bay Books store disappeared one after the other.

After Gui, Lam Wing-kee, Cheung Chi-ping and Lui Por went missing on the mainland in the same month. Lee Po disappeared from Hong Kong in late December.

Their companies specialised in books critical of the Chinese Communist Party.

Late last month, Gui’s daughter, Angela, testified in a US congressional hearing and called on the international community to confront Beijing.

“I watched it,” Storm said, referring to the testimony. “I can understand she is worried.”

In a wide-ranging interview with the Post, Storm also revealed plans to promote the Nordic country’s economic and cultural presence in Hong Kong.

Storm started her tenure in Hong Kong in September, when she succeeded Jorgen Halldin, who had to apologise after shouting at staff at the exclusive Foreign Correspondents’ Club, hurling insults in a fit of anger, and tearing up his membership card.

In her first role as head of a diplomatic mission, Storm has already shown her eagerness to bring in new ideas. Coming to Hong Kong as a mother of one-year-old twins, she launched a children’s playground in her office reception.

Storm sees her role less as a troubleshooter than a cultural ambassador, planning to introduce a “Sweden Week” to Hong Kong this year to promote her country’s cultural and culinary highlights.

On the business front, she said she could explore with the Hong Kong government the possibility of promoting the city as a start-up base for technology entrepreneurs from the Nordic countries.

Last year, Sweden was Hong Kong’s 11th largest trading partner from the EU, and about 8 per cent of Sweden’s trade with the mainland was through Hong Kong.

With Sweden’s annual GDP growth at 4.1 per cent last year, Storm noted: “Everyone is talking about Europe in an economic crisis at the moment. Well it’s not really true in Sweden.”