Angela Gui, the daughter of previously missing bookseller Gui Minhai, testified before a US congressional commission hearing on China on Wednesday. She said that – despite being told to keep quiet – speaking up was “the only option” she had to urge for her father’s release.
The Congressional-Executive Commission on China hearing marked the first public appearance of her – a student at the University of Warwick in the UK – since the case relating to her father surfaced.
Gui Minhai was a co-owner of the Mighty Current publishing house and Causeway Bay Books in Hong Kong, known for political gossip titles critical of the Chinese government. He disappeared from Thailand last October before reappearing on Chinese state television in January “confessing” to a crime he allegedly committed 12 years ago.
“As a university student, I never would have thought I’d find myself testifying in front of the US Congress,” she said. “And certainly not under circumstances like this.”
She said that her father talked on Skype with her regularly as they lived in different places. Their final Skype conversation was on October 13 and they had planned to call each other again in a few days. But her father stopped replying to her messages, emails and phone calls, she said.
She said Lee Bo, a British national and another missing bookseller, sent her an email about three weeks later saying her father had been missing for over 20 days and that it was feared he had been taken away by Chinese agents for political reasons relating to the publishing business.
Angela added that she was told later that her father was last seen leaving his holiday apartment in Thailand with a man who had been loitering there and waiting for him to return. She learnt that three other colleagues at the bookstore had gone missing around the same time.
“Since then, the Chinese have detained my father without trial or charges,” she said. “In November and in January, he sent me two messages on Skype telling me to keep quiet – as his daughter, I could tell he sent these under duress.”
She described her father’s “confession” video broadcast on Chinese state television in January as “clearly staged” and “badly put together”.
“It failed to explain why they had held him without charges for three months and looked to me like they need to fabricate a justification in the face of media pressure,” she said.
Angela said she still has not been told where he is, how he is being treated and what was his legal status is.
“Which is especially shocking in light of the fact that my father holds Swedish and only Swedish citizenship,” she said.
She questioned her father’s claims that he travelled to China voluntarily, as there was no record of him leaving Thailand.
“Only a state agency acting coercively and against both international and China’s own law could have achieved such a disappearance,” she said.
She said the booksellers’ disappearances undermined China’s commitment to Hong Kong’s One Country, Two Systems principle, which guarantees its autonomy.
She added that she wanted her testimony to be a reminder to the government that her father’s abduction from a third sovereign country was still an unofficial and illegal detention in China, and that he did not have access to consular visits or legal representation.
“Despite having being told to stay quiet, I believe speaking up is the only option I have,” she said.
“Past cases clearly showed that public criticism has had positive effects and I am convinced my father would have done this for me were either one abducted and illegitimately detained without any indication of time frame.”
The UK and the US government, and the European Union, have expressed their concerns over the incident. Angela said representatives of the Swedish government had reached Gui Minhai, though he said he did not want help.
Angela Gui asked for the committee’s help and support to work with the Swedish and other governments to demand her father’s immediate release, or alternatively demand official details of his detention and proof that his case was being handled according to legal procedures, if he was suspected of an actual crime.
“The US, Sweden and other countries concerned about these developments need to work to make sure that Chinese authorities are not allowed to carry out illegal operations on foreign soil,” she concluded.