July 24, 2018

China’s embassy in Stockholm has been harrassing those who speak in defense of Gui Minhai, the Swedish publisher illegally detained in China


Gui Minhai, in happier days

Over the past few years, we’ve devoted a great deal of attention to the story of Gui Minhai, the Swedish publisher abducted by officials from the People’s Republic of China in 2015, and held without charge as a punishment for his (wholly legal) publishing work in Hong Kong, a territory that, while formally part of the PRC, is formally guaranteed legal autonomy under the so-called One Country, Two Systems policy. Earlier this year, Gui, who had appeared to be moving toward freedom, was taken back into custody by plainclothes Chinese security forces, while traveling to Beijing with a diplomatic escort from his government to seek a medical exam, and possibly treatment for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, aka Lou Gehrig’s Disease. He has remained in state custody since, as the European Union continues to demand his release.

This past July 13th was the thousandth day of Gui’s detention, an occasion marked by protests at the Chinese embassy in Stockholm that Kurdish-Swedish writer Kurdo Baksi organized in collaboration the Svenska Förläggareföreningen—Sweden’s publishers’ association—and the Svenska Författarföreningen—the country’s writers’ association. Swedish media was all over them, but global coverage was scant. We reached out to anthropologist Magnus Fiskesjö, a friend of Gui’s and longtime activist on his behalf, who was among those appearing at the protest. He reports an energized and uncompromising—if smallish—crowd that included representatives of Swedish writers’, publishers’, and journalists’ organizations. Fiskesjö read his own translation of a poem Gui wrote in the eighties; others, including Expressen culture editor Ida Ölmedal, read poems, too.

Fiskesjö also reports on a newer, troubling development — one that’s made headlines in Sweden but is going largely unreported by the global media:

A new, ugly campaign has been launched by the Chinese embassy in Stockholm, which now sends large numbers of emails and letters (yes, snail mail) to targeted individuals in Sweden, including especially those who have signed public appeals for Gui; it target-invites others to the embassy, including China scholars, to suffer a harrowing monologue; it posts statements on its homepage attacking Swedish media and journalists, as well as smearing Gui, and now even his daughter Angela; and it actively seeks out media interviews to try to further its take — such as the shameless, arrogant insistence on its claim that Gui’s coerced “confessions” were real, despite massive indications to the contrary.

China’s ambassador to Sweden, the controversial Gui Congyou (no relation), recently gave an interview with Arne Lapidus of Expressen, which is one of Sweden’s major newspapers. It’s fully unhinged — Gui asserts that “China is a country ruled by law and everyone is equal before the law. The crimes [Gui Minhai] committed in China must be dealt with under the Chinese law.” (It is most certainly untrue that everyone in China is equal before the law; as for Gui’s “crimes,” you can catch up on that particular line of horseshit right here.)

Ambassador Gui does not seem to be winning many friends in Sweden, a post to which he was confirmed last year. In an editorial in Expressen last Friday, Karin Olsson writes that Gui has in recent weeks “demonstrated just how primitive the superpower is” on issues of free speech. She goes on to add that “politicians and businesses must not succumb to an increasingly powerful China. Expressen won’t… Reporting on Gui Minhai and the issues around his freedom of speech will remain unaffected.”

Which is important and great — but clearly the headline folks all around the world want to read is one that says, simply, “Gui Minhai Home in Sweden at Last.” Until then, his situation remains precarious — and China’s extralegal detention remains a serious issue.



Ian Dreiblatt is the former Director of Digital Media at Melville House.