Swedish citizen and Hong Kong-based bookseller Gui Minhai on Friday confessed during detention that his purpose of traveling to Beijing was not for a medical examination but to meet someone from a US foundation through an arrangement by the Swedish Embassy in Beijing.
Gui, 53, was taken by Chinese police from a Beijing-bound train on January 20 while accompanied by two Swedish diplomats. Gui Minhai's daughter, Angela Gui, previously told AFP that her father might be suffering amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a rare neurological disease, and was on his way to see a Swedish specialist in Beijing.
Gui on Friday told a group of reporters at a detention center in Ningbo, East China's Zhejiang Province that the medical examination was an excuse and the Swedish government had offered him a plan to arrive at the Swedish Embassy in Beijing first and then seek opportunities for him to leave for Sweden.
"The Swedish officials did not talk much about the medical examination. They only told me to meet a Swedish sinologist and someone from a US foundation after arriving at the Swedish Embassy in Beijing," Gui said.
Gui, also a publisher, was released from custody on October 17 last year for a traffic offense, but another investigation into his illegal business is still ongoing. By Chinese law, Gui is not allowed to leave the Chinese mainland with an ongoing case. Gui had earlier promised the police he would not leave Ningbo or at least report his whereabouts if he traveled elsewhere.
The publisher said the two Swedish diplomats secretly drove him from Ningbo to Shanghai with a consulate car on January 20 and accompanied him on a Beijing-bound train.
"They told me not to leave the car to avoid unwanted attention," Gui said.
Gui was suspected by the Ningbo police of being involved in activities that jeopardize national security, including illegally providing national secrets and intelligence to overseas groups, the Global Times has learned. Police also accused Gui of carrying multiple documents containing national secrets en route to Beijing.
Police told the Global Times that they have contacted Gui multiple times while he was on his way to Beijing and asked him to return to Ningbo for investigation, "but the diplomats accompanied him asked Gui not to oblige."
Gui was taken off the train and detained when the train stopped at a station in Ji'nan, Shandong Province.
A pawn of Swedish govt
Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström said in an earlier statement that Gui's continued detention was a "very serious matter" and that China's "brutal" intervention in Sweden's attempts to help Gui represented a contravention of international rules on consular support.
Gui told reporters that he believed the Swedish government is using him to hype the case and that is the reason why he was detained again.
He said the Swedish government has been in contact with him almost every day after his release.
"Knowing very well that I have an unclosed case and cannot leave the country, they kept abetting me to travel back to Sweden," he said, adding that consular staff secretly came to Ningbo and offered multiple plans for him to flee.
Gui said the Swedish government's attention may be politically motivated.
"When I was in Sweden, I never received such special attention… I don't know if they care about me or simply want to use my case. 2018 is Sweden's election year. My situation may be able to help certain politicians with their career during the election year," Gui said.
In a January 27 letter acquired by the Global Times to Anna Lindstedt, the Swedish Ambassador to China, Gui wrote that the embassy's move was "highly irresponsible" toward his health and he had been made a pawn.
Gui told reporters on Friday that he had lost confidence in the Swedish government and did not wish them to interfere.
"If they continue to interfere in my affairs, I may consider giving up my Swedish citizenship," Gui said.
Gui Minhai's sister Gui Minfen also wrote in a letter to the Swedish Ambassador that she and the rest of her family were angered by the embassy's behavior.
Gui Minfen told reporters on Friday that their family did not know Gui Minhai was traveling to Beijing with the Swedish diplomats until they were informed of his new detention. Gui Minfen said she concealed the truth from their sick mother.
As for the IPA Prix Voltaire Award from the International Publishers Association, Gui Minhai said he has no plan to accept the award and hopes the association can respect his will.
With regard to Gui Minhai's medical condition, two statements from Ningbo Medical Center Lihuili Hospital showed that Gui was diagnosed as having degeneration of the spinal column cervical spondylosis, not ALS.
Gui said after medical checks in November that atrophy of muscles might have been triggered by cervical spondylosis.
"The ALS was an excuse to take me to Sweden," he said.
Since his release in October, Gui has refocused his life on accompanying his mother while awaiting the results of the investigation. He has twice traveled to Shanghai to apply for a new identification card. His wife Zhong Ningjun also returned from Germany to live with him in Ningbo for almost a month.
"Now everything has changed," he said.
Gui has requested in written forms that he needs no consular notifications or visits.
Newspaper headline: HK bookseller confesses to truth about so-called ‘disappearance’