Dissident bookseller Gui Minhai, who was recently released from prison in China, is currently staying in Ningbo and wishes to return to Europe, the writer Bei Ling has told HKFP.

The Swedish national was kidnapped two years ago while on holiday in Thailand, only to resurface in mainland China. Authorities said on Tuesday that he had been released after serving a two-year sentence relating to a traffic incident, but his daughter Angela – who has been campaigning for his release – said she had not heard from him and did not know where he was.

Gui Minhai
Gui Minhai “confessing” to his involvement in a fatal car accident years before. Photo: CCTV screenshot.

According to Bei Ling, Gui Minhai is staying with his wife Jennifer in a rented flat in Ningbo, an eastern Chinese city. Bei, a close friend of Gui’s, told HKFP that one of Gui’s family members told him about his situation. Gui was also able to see his mother and sister, he said.

The writer said that Gui spoke to his daughter in a 40-minute phone call before midnight on Thursday. He also posted on Twitter that Gui, speaking in Swedish, had called the Swedish Consulate General in Shanghai several days ago, appearing to corroborate Angela Gui’s account of a strange phone call from someone claiming to be her father to the Consulate.

Bei said Gui intends to apply for a new Swedish passport soon, and that he will return to his home in Germany when the police in China allow it. He described Gui’s situation as “half free.”

Bei Ling Gui Minhai
Bei Ling (left) and Gui Minhai (right) at a forum of the Frankfurt Book Fair in 2009. File Photo: Stand News.

A press statement released to US-backed Radio Free Asia by a writers’ association led by Bei said it is unknown whether Gui is free to come and go as he wishes in Ningbo. The association called on China to let Gui leave China with his wife and return to Europe, in accordance with his own desires. It added that the association would be pleased to see his exit facilitated by Swedish authorities.

Patrick Poon, China researcher at Amnesty International told HKFP: “While it’s again encouraging to hear more news about Gui, we believe he’s still not completely free and he’s still subjected to surveillance. If he’s free, his daughter should be able to get in touch with him.”

Gui was a co-owner of Causeway Bay Books and its parent company Mighty Current, which specialised in Chinese political gossip titles. The five co-owners and staff members of the two companies all disappeared in late 2015. Gui, a China-born Swedish citizen, disappeared from Pattaya, Thailand on October 17, 2015 with no record of his departure. He re-emerged on Chinese state television in January, “confessing” to a drunk-driving accident in 2003.

Angela Gui confirmed that a call was made, though did not state whether it was her father: “A phone call did take place but there are still very many things that need to be clarified.”

Additional reporting: Kris Cheng. 

Catherine is a Canadian journalist and photographer who lived in Beijing for almost two years, working in TV and online media. Aside from Hong Kong and mainland affairs, she is also interested in urban spaces, art and feminism. She holds a BA in Literature and Art History from the University of British Columbia.