Chinese court gives Gui Minhai, Hong Kong bookseller, 10 years in jail

BEIJING (Reuters) – A Chinese court sentenced Chinese-born Swedish citizen Gui Minhai to 10 years in jail for illegally providing intelligence overseas on Monday, the Ningbo Intermediate People’s Court said in a statement on its website.

Gui, a bookseller previously based in Hong Kong who sold books critical of China’s political leadership, was detained by mainland police in 2018. He was seized by plainclothes police while with Swedish diplomats.

Gui’s situation soured relations between Sweden and China in the months leading up to Monday’s sentencing, with Chinese officials warning Swedish counterparts of meddling in Chinese internal affairs.

Swedish foreign ministry officials, who had demanded his release, have yet to comment.

The Ningbo court statement said Gui, 55, had stated that he would not appeal the sentence and had asked to have his Chinese citizenship reinstated.

Chinese officials objected to Svenska PEN, a literary organization, awarding Gui Minhai the 2019 Tulcholsky Prize, praising his service to free speech.

Swedish culture minister Amanda Lind defied Chinese diplomatic threats of “countermeasures” to present the prize.

Gui is the highest-profile of five booksellers who disappeared between October and December 2015, all linked to a Hong Kong bookshop famous for its gossipy texts on Chinese political leaders.

Such books are banned on the mainland but their production and sale is legal within Hong Kong under the extensive freedoms guaranteed as part of the 1997 handover of the city from British colonial rule to Chinese sovereignty.

Gui was initially abducted in the Thai beach resort of Pattaya before surfacing, like the others, in detention in mainland China.

Three of his colleagues were detained in mainland China while another was widely thought to have been abducted in Hong Kong and spirited across the border. Gui is the only one to have remained in detention.

His daughter Angela, along with other supporters, has repeatedly called for his release, saying he is a victim of illegal political persecution.

(This story deletes extraneous word from headline.)

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