China sentences Swedish bookseller Gui Minhai to 10 years

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Feb 25 2020 11:25 AM

BEIJING - A Chinese court has sentenced Swedish book publisher 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 Gui was convicted on Monday and that he had his Chinese citizenship reinstated in 2018, but it was not immediately clear if he had given up his Swedish nationality.

Gui, 1 of 5 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 Feb. 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 2 years in prison but 3 months after his Oct. 2017 release, he was again arrested while on a train to Beijing while travelling with Swedish diplomats.

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

The Ningbo court also sentenced Gui to 5 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 recognize dual citizenship and foreigners are required to renounce their foreign nationality once they gain Chinese citizenship.

A video released by China 3 weeks after Gui's disappearance showed him purportedly confessing wrongdoing and blaming Sweden for "sensationalizing" his case and "instigating" law-breaking behavior.

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.