Gui Minhai, the Hong Kong bookseller with Swedish citizenship who had been kept in custody on the Chinese mainland since 2015, has been released.
On October 24, during the Chinese Communist Party’s 19th National Congress, the Chinese Foreign Ministry told Reuters in an e-mailed statement: “According to what we understand, because Gui Minhai has served his sentence for the crime of causing traffic accident casualties, he was released on Oct. 17.”
The Swedish Foreign Ministry said the Chinese government has also informed them about the release, according to Reuters.
However, Gui’s daughter, Angela Gui, said in a statement issued on October 24 on her Twitter account that Gui’s whereabouts were unknown; none of Gui’s family or his friends had been able to get contact with Gui for weeks.
“Today it has been a week since October 17 and I still do not know where my father is,” Gui’s daughter said. “I am deeply concerned for his wellbeing. This week I have slept with my phone on my pillow waiting for my father to call. I will continue to do so until he does.”
On October 26, the day after the 19th Party Congress ended, Gui’s friend confirmed that Gui is currently staying in Ningbo, a port city in east China’s Zhejiang province, where his mother is living now.
Gui’s friend Bei Ling, a dissident poet and the co-founder of the Independent Chinese PEN Center, said on Twitter that Gui is reunited with his wife, his mother, and his sisters in Ningbo. Gui has also called his relatives by phone, Bei said.
Bei revealed that Gui had called the Swedish Consulate General in Shanghai several days ago, applying for a new Swedish passport.
“He’d like to go back to his German home, if China’s police allows,” Bei said.
Bei also told a Hong Kong news organization that all this information had come from one of Gui’s family members.
Gui was one of the five Hong Kong booksellers who disappeared in 2015 and resurfaced on the Chinese mainland under police custody. The incident triggered a huge wave of protest against the Chinese government in Hong Kong. It is widely believed that the Chinese authorities detained Gui for publishing “forbidden” books on Chinese President Xi Jinping and other Communist Party leaders. But the Chinese government said Gui turned himself in to answer for a drunk-driving conviction 11 years ago. Gui himself later also showed up on a TV program of China’s state-run CCTV and admitted to the camera that he did voluntarily go back to the Chinese mainland .
Although released from the police custody now, Gui is still potentially faced with house arrest.
Bei said, “He will enjoy true freedom only if he is allowed to leave China. If he cannot leave China, he could end up just like Liu Xia,” referring to the widow of Liu Xiaobo, according to a report of South China Morning Post.