The curious “confession” of Hong Kong publisher Gui Minhai, who was paraded on Chinese national TV admitting to fleeing a decade-old manslaughter charge after disappearing for three months, has raised doubts and a backlash.

Sophie Richardson, China Director at Human Rights Watch, told HKFP: “The circumstance of Gui’s ‘confession’ raise still more questions about his case than they answer.”

Gui Minhai
Gui Minhai. Photo: CCTV screencap.

Gui, who went missing in Thailand in October, appeared on China’s CCTV on Sunday night in “an exclusive interview” saying that he had been on the run after receiving a suspended two year prison sentence for killing a young woman in a 2003 car crash in eastern China. Gui apologised for what he did and said he surrendered to Chinese police “on his own.” He also asked the Swedish government not to help him despite the fact that he has Swedish citizenship.

Richardson blasted Chinese authorities for depriving Gui of due legal process and his rights as a defendant. “It’s not hard to see the effects of months of arbitrary detention, lack of access to lawyers of his own choosing or his family, or the ability to even know the evidence against him – all hallmarks of China’s nakedly politicised judicial system.”

YouTube video

Civic Party lawmaker Alan Leong Kah-Kit also raised doubts about Gui’s surrender. “Why did he not confess years ago?… If the mainland authorities were hunting for him, why did they not arrest him earlier?” Leong said on Facebook.

Gui Minhai

More questions emerge

  • One of the biggest questions is discrepancies in Gui’s name and age. Both CCTV and state news agency Xinhua referred to Gui as “桂敏海”, but he is known as “桂民海” – the two names share the same Pinyin but have a different Chinese character. Also, according to a 2005 CCTV report on the same car crash, the suspect was 46 years old at the time but publisher Gui should have been 39 back then.
  • Gui’s daughter Angela told Apple Daily that she had never heard of the car crash linked to her father, and that she “does not believe” her father would turn himself in to the Chinese police.
  • In the CCTV interview, Gui did not explain how he went from holidaying in Thailand to being detained in China. Angela said she believes her father was targeted by Chinese authorities because of his bookstore business in Hong Kong. Gui is a shareholder of Mighty Current publishing house, which specialises in publishing politically sensitive books banned in mainland China. Four of Gui’s colleagues from the company and the affiliating Causeway Bay Bookstore have also gone missing.

‘Twisting the case’

The disappearances of the booksellers caused a huge backlash in Hong Kong, where three protests were held since Lee Bo, the last of the five people to go missing, vanished. Bo disappeared from Hong Kong and reappeared in Shenzhen with no official record of him crossing the border.

See also: Mainland yet to reply to HK gov’t, says CY, after ‘confession’ and new ‘letter’ from missing booksellers

Lee, who had written two letters home and released a video to say he is “safe” and “assisting in an investigation”, issued a third letter after Gui’s television confession on Sunday accusing his colleague of being an “immoral person.” At around the same time, mainland newspaper Global Times joined in on the condemnation of Gui and accused people in Hong Kong of twisting his case and making it about banned books and freedom of publication.

子瑜桂民海道歉神同步【子瑜桂民海道歉神同步】子瑜道歉!桂民海道歉!你預備好你將來點道歉未呀!(個劇本邊個寫咖,兩邊對白重覆用嘅?)#子瑜 #周子瑜 #桂民海 #桂明海 #桂敏海 #standbyyu #tzuyu

Posted by Picssage Cap圖鍵盤 on Sunday, January 17, 2016

Meanwhile, netizens have compared Gui’s “forced apology” to one made by Taiwanese singer Chou Tzu-yu, who apologised to carrying a Taiwanese flag in a music video and said she was proud to be Chinese.

Vivienne Zeng is a journalist from China with three years' experience covering Hong Kong and mainland affairs. She has an MA in journalism from the University of Hong Kong. Her work has been featured on outlets such as Al Jazeera+ and MSNBC.