Causeway Bay bookseller Lam Wing-kee says he believes fellow publisher Gui Minhai was seized from a Beijing-bound train while being escorted by two Swedish diplomats last month because Gui did not notify the authorities about his trip.
“It was not important whether Gui Minhai was really sick,” Lam said on Monday. He said he was told by foreign media in Beijing that Gui did appear to be unwell.
Lam and Gui were among five Hong Kong-based booksellers who hit the headlines when they disappeared in late 2015. Their store, Causeway Bay Books, sold political gossip titles banned in the mainland. Gui went missing in Pattaya, Thailand with no record of departure, only to re-emerge on Chinese state television months later “confessing” to a drunk-driving incident which took place over a decade ago.
Gui was held in Chinese custody for two years and was formally released last October after serving his sentence for a “traffic offence,” but – according to his daughter Angela Gui – he was living in a “police-managed” flat under their surveillance in the eastern city of Ningbo. Lam, meanwhile, was allowed to return to Hong Kong in June 2016.
Lam made the comments in a piece he wrote for Apple Daily: “Looking at the circumstances of the past year it would seem that Gui Minhai has been released but does not enjoy true freedom.”
Although there was limited information available, Lam said, simple deductions could be made on the recent incident. He cited a mainland Chinese law on residential surveillance, which states that one “must not leave his/her domicile without the permission of the execution organ.” Lam said, in one scenario, Gui could indeed be sick and was accompanied by Swedish diplomats in seeking medical help. He said it was likely that Gui was taken away because he failed to inform authorities that he was leaving.
In another scenario, Lam said, Gui could be using the illness as an excuse and was planning to leave mainland China, thus – he naturally would not notify the authorities. Lam said in scenario two, Gui would be stopped regardless of whether he had notified the authorities, but in the first scenario, he would not have been stopped if he received permission.
“If he had given notification and permission was not granted, the journey would not have commenced in Ningbo and there would not have been a diplomatic incident on a train before Swedish diplomats and as the public watched. If the deduction is correct, it means that after two years of being imprisoned, Gui Minhai has an intention of leaving the country and seeking the freedom he deserves.”
Doctors in Ningbo said Gui may have the neurological disease ALS. His daughter, Angela Gui, told AFP that “[i]f he does have ALS, perhaps he might not have that much time left.”