The German ambassador to China Michael Clauss has released a statement regarding human rights activist Peter Dahlin and “other British and Swedish EU citizens,” stating that the internationally guaranteed rights of EU citizens must be protected.

However, the statement did not mention missing booksellers Lee Bo or Gui Minhai by name.

Peter Dahlin, Lee Bo, Gui Minhai in China
Photo: HKFP.

Clauss said he “the grave concern of our EU partners”, urging Beijing to respect international agreements whereby the home country must be informed and put in contact with suspects if detained abroad. Legal rights, including the choice of a lawyer, and a free trial are meant to be provided and guaranteed.

In response to the televised confessions of Peter Dahlin and others, Clauss also said that “statements by the detained person belong in a court of law in the presence of a freely chosen defense lawyer, not on state television.”

Detained by China

Three EU citizens, Peter Dahlin, Gui Minhai, and Lee Bo, have been detained by the Chinese authorities in recent months.

Peter Dahlin
Peter Dahlin. Photo: Michael Caster.

Dahlin, a human rights activist and Swedish citizen, was detained by China earlier this month for “encouraging the masses to oppose the government” through his activist organisation, China Urgent Action Working Group. The lawyer “confessed” on state-owned CCTV, where he said that he “violated Chinese law through my activities” and “hurt the feelings of the Chinese people.” The detention, and televised confession, of foreigners in China is rare.

Gui Minhai.
Gui Minhai.

Gui, a Swedish citizen, was a staff member at Mighty Current Publishing, which owns Causeway Bay Bookstore. The store is known for selling banned books about the Chinese government. Also “confessing” on state-owned CCTV, he claimed that he went back to China to turn himself in for a drink-driving crime committed more than a decade ago.

He said “Although I am a Swedish national, I feel that I am still Chinese and my roots are in China. Therefore, I hope that the Swedish government will respect my choice, my rights and my privacy and let me solve my problem on my own.”

Lee Bo
Lee Bo. File

Lee, a British citizen, and a shareholder of the Causeway Bay Bookstore, disappeared from Hong Kong at the end of last year. In early January, he sent letters assuring his wife that everything was fine and he simply “used his own method to go the mainland” to assist in investigations. Mainland authorities confirmed on January 18 that he is being held in Guangdong.

The Peter Dahlin case is the latest in a series of EU-related detentions in China. The missing booksellers case has raised concern among the European Union, Swedish and British governments, who have called upon China to disclose more information.

Chantal Yuen is a Hong Kong journalist interested in issues dealing with religion and immigration. She majored in German and minored in Middle Eastern studies at Princeton University.