China sentences bookseller Gui Minhai to 10 years in prison

Hong Kong-based publisher first vanished in 2015 while on holiday in Thailand and eventually surfaced in China.

Gui Minhai
Five people linked to a Hong Kong bookstore, which sold books critical of mainland Chinese leaders and banned in China, have disappeared, or been sentenced to jail [File: Jerome Favre/EPA]

A court in China has sentenced Chinese-born Swedish citizen Gui Minhai to 10 years in prison on charges of illegally providing intelligence abroad in a case that has rattled relations between Beijing and Stockholm.

The court in the eastern city of Ningbo said on Tuesday that the book publisher had been convicted on Monday and that he had had his Chinese citizenship reinstated in 2018, although it was not immediately clear if he had given up his Swedish nationality.

Gui, one of five Hong Kong-based booksellers known for publishing gossipy titles about Chinese political leaders, was snatched by Chinese authorities while on a train to Beijing in February 2018, the second time he disappeared into Chinese custody.

Gui first vanished in 2015 while on holiday in Thailand and eventually surfaced at an undisclosed location in China, confessing to involvement in a fatal traffic accident and smuggling illegal books.

He served two years in prison but three months after his October 2017 release, he was again arrested on a train to Beijing while travelling with Swedish diplomats.

His supporters and family have claimed his detention is part of political repression campaign by Chinese authorities.

The Ningbo court also sentenced Gui to five years of “deprivation of political rights”, which in practice means he cannot lead state-owned enterprises or hold positions in state organs.

China does not recognise dual citizenship and foreign nationals are required to renounce their other citizenships once they gain Chinese citizenship.

A video released by China three weeks after Gui’s disappearance showed him purportedly confessing wrongdoing and blaming Sweden for “sensationalising” his case and “instigating” law-breaking behaviour.

Gui’s friend, dissident poet Bei Ling, said at the time that Gui’s confession was likely made under coercion.

Chinese criminal suspects often appear in videotaped “confessions” that rights groups say sometimes bear the hallmarks of official arm-twisting.

Source: AFP