ABFE Urges State Department to Step Up Efforts to Free Chinese Bookseller

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    This week, the American Booksellers for Free Expression urged the U.S. State Department to “redouble its efforts” on behalf of publisher/bookseller Gui Minhai, a Chinese-born Swedish national who has been detained by Chinese authorities.

    On February 9, Gui appeared in an interview staged by Chinese authorities, where he stated he wanted no help from any concerned nations or organizations, including Sweden. Many media outlets reported that it was likely Gui’s statement was coerced by the Chinese government. In his letter to the State Department, David Grogan, director of ABFE, wrote: “It was painfully obvious in watching the interview that Mr. Gui was likely coerced into his statement and that, rather than heeding this purported request and backing off, the U.S. should redouble its efforts on his behalf.”

    Gui was traveling by train to Beijing with two Swedish diplomats when plainclothes police officers boarded at a station and led Gui away. At the time, Gui had been on his way to the Chinese capital for a medical examination at the Swedish Embassy after showing signs of ALS.

    Chinese officials claim that Gui had planned to illegally pass on multiple documents containing state secrets to overseas groups, according to Chinese newspaper Global Times.

    Sweden continues to call for Gui’s release, as reported by the Hong Kong Free Press.

    “The continued harassment and detention of Mr. Gui pose a serious threat to free expression,” wrote Grogan. “Mr. Gui is co-owner of Mighty Current publishing, which is known for producing and selling books that are critical of the Chinese government. These books are regularly banned in mainland China but available in Hong Kong. This case continues to send an intimidating message to writers, publishers, and booksellers in Hong Kong that tackling politically sensitive topics can imperil an individual’s freedom and safety.”


    February 12, 2018

    The Honorable Rex Tillerson
    Secretary of State
    U.S. State Department
    Harry S. Truman Building
    2201 C Street, NW
    Washington, D.C. 20520

    Dear Mr. Secretary:

    We are following up on our letter dated January 22 regarding the detention by Chinese authorities of publisher/bookseller Gui Minhai, a Chinese-born Swedish national. We thank you for your strong statement urging the Chinese government to release Mr. Gui. We strongly believe, given the latest updates on the situation, the U.S. State Department must continue to demand in the strongest terms that Chinese officials release Mr. Gui and allow him to go back home to Sweden.

    On Friday, February 9, Chinese authorities arranged an interview in which Mr. Gui stated that he wanted no help from concerned organizations and nations, including Sweden. It was painfully obvious in watching the interview that Mr. Gui was likely coerced into his statement and that, rather than heeding this purported request and backing off, the U.S. should redouble its efforts on his behalf.

    Mr. Gui was traveling by train to Beijing with two Swedish diplomats, when plainclothes police officers boarded at a station and led Mr. Gui away. At the time, Mr. Gui had been on his way to the Chinese capital for a medical examination at the Swedish Embassy (after showing signs of ALS).

    As you know, Mr. Gui has become a symbol of the Chinese government’s determination to smother criticism from abroad when he was one of five Hong Kong booksellers who disappeared in 2015, and then resurfaced in China in police custody. Mr. Gui was accused by Chinese state news media of publishing books that slurred Communist Party leaders.

    The continued harassment and detention of Mr. Gui pose a serious threat to free expression. Mr. Gui is co-owner of Mighty Current publishing, which is known for producing and selling books that are critical of the Chinese government. These books are regularly banned in mainland China but available in Hong Kong.  This case continues to send an intimidating message to writers, publishers, and booksellers in Hong Kong that tackling politically sensitive topics can imperil an individual’s freedom and safety.

    We respectfully urge the State Department to keep the pressure on Chinese authorities to release Mr. Gui.

    Sincerely,

    David Grogan, Director, ABFE, Advocacy and Public Policy
    American Booksellers for Free Expression
    333 Westchester Ave, S202
    White Plains, NY 10604