Swedish bookseller Gui Minhai sentenced to 10 years in prison

Chinese authorities say that Gui Minhai has renounced his Swedish citizenship. Sweden and the EU dispute this.

A screenshot from a forced “confession” by Gui Minhai aired by China’s state broadcaster in 2015.

The Guardian reports:

A Chinese court has sentenced the Swedish bookseller Guì Mǐnhǎi 桂敏海 to 10 years in prison for “providing intelligence” overseas, deepening diplomatic tensions as Sweden demanded that China release him.

A court in Ningbo, an eastern port city, said on Tuesday that Gui had been found guilty and would be stripped of political rights for five years in addition to his prison term. The brief statement said Gui had pleaded guilty and would not be appealing against his case…

The court in Ningbo acknowledged Gui had become Swedish in the 1990s but added that he had applied to restore his Chinese citizenship in 2018. China does not recognise dual citizenship and restoring his Chinese passport may have been a way to block Swedish diplomats from visiting him, observers said.

Sweden’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs has said that the alleged change in citizenship is not valid. In a statement to the Hong Kong Free Press, the ministry said, “Swedish citizenship can only be renounced after an examination and a decision by the Swedish Migration Agency.”

A European Union spokesperson also emphasized that Gui is “a Swedish national,” and continued:

There are serious questions to be answered about this case. His rights, including inter alia to consular access and due process, have not been respected.

The European Union has raised Gui Minhai’s case with the Chinese authorities on numerous occasions, both in private and publicly, including at the highest level, and will continue to do so… The European Union fully supports the efforts of the Swedish government.

What does the sentencing mean, and why did Beijing do it? Peter Dahlin has a plausible explanation in the HKFP:

Meanwhile, Peter Dahlin — a fellow Swedish national who also appeared in a televised “confession” in China — told HKFP that the sentencing showed that Beijing did not care about “appearances” any more.

“The charge is ludicrous, the only ‘state secrets’ that Gui may have is knowledge about how Chinese agents kidnapped him in Thailand, and about the torture he has endured after being returned to China. It has long been feared that China could not let Gui leave, as it could not let information about his treatment, and kidnapping, come out, and this is just one in a long list of steps they have taken…” he said.

For context, see previous SupChina coverage of Gui’s case:

—Lucas Niewenhuis