A group of 17 pro-democracy lawmakers have written to Chinese President Xi Jinping to urge the release of jailed Hong Kong publisher Yiu Man-tin, so that he can seek medical help outside of China.

Yiu, who had planned to publish the book China’s Godfather, Xi Jinping — written by Chinese dissident writer Yu Jie — was arrested in Shenzhen in October 2013 for “smuggling ordinary goods.” He was sentenced to ten years in jail in May 2014.

The health of 76-year-old Yiu took a turn for the worse in jail. The 17 lawmakers wrote in the letter that Yiu has had five heart attacks behind bars and he became unconscious each time. They said he suffers from other long term illnesses and was transferred to a prison hospital in Dongguan in July 2015.

Yiu Man-tin Xi Jinping
Yiu Man-tin and “China’s Godfather, Xi Jinping”.

Yiu’s 78-year-old wife was also in bad health as she lives alone in Hong Kong. The lawmakers said she has difficulties visiting her husband on the mainland since her bones have severely deteriorated and she needs walking sticks.

Only siblings can provide a guarantee for a prisoner to be released on medical bail, according to mainland regulations. Yiu has a nephew on the mainland but he was not allowed to act as guarantor.

Democratic Party lawmaker Andrew Wan Siu-kin said Hong Kong people have lost trust in the central government after the arrest of Yiu, and the disappearance of five Causeway Bay Books publishers and Chinese billionaire Xiao Jianhua.

“It is inhumane not allowing medical bail for Yiu, who is bad health,” Wan said.

Wan and former lawmaker Albert Ho Chun-yan, now the chairman of the China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group, went to the Central Post Office to send the letter to Xi on Thursday.

Albert Ho Andrew Wan
From left: Albert Ho and Andrew Wan. Photo: Democratic Party.

Yiu, founder and chief editor of the Morning Bell Press, originally planned to publish the book about Xi. Yiu, on 27 October 2013, helped a friend to bring common chemical goods – which are allowed across the border – into the mainland, but he was arrested for smuggling when he crossed.

Yiu’s son Edmond Yiu Yung-chin was a student leader studying at the Shanghai Fudan University during the 1989 Beijing Tiananmen democratic movement. He was the only student from Hong Kong arrested after the massacre. Edmond moved to the US from Hong Kong in 1996.

When his father was sentenced, Edmond said he believed his father had been “set up” to prevent him from publishing subversive books.

Jin Zhong, another publisher, took over the book project and published it in 2014.

Yu Jie.
Yu Jie. Photo: Yu Jie.

Last year, Yu Jie wrote another book Xi Jinping’s Nightmare, a critique of the Xi regime. But Jin told Yu that he feared publishing it following the disappearance of the five booksellers of Causeway Bay Books. Yu contacted other publishers in Hong Kong, who also declined.

Yu’s new book was ultimately published in Taiwan, which he called the “last lighthouse of publishing freedom for ethnic Chinese society.”

The 17 lawmakers who wrote to Xi are: James To, Wu Chi-wai, Helena Wong, Lam Cheuk-ting, Andrew Wan, Ted Hui, Roy Kwong, Shiu Ka-chun, Fernando Cheung, Eddie Chu, Ray Chan, Alvin Yeung, Claudia Mo, Leung Kwok-hung, Ip Kin-yuen, Lau Siu-lai and Kwok Ka-ki.

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.