The daughter of detained bookseller Gui Minhai has said that an “interview” he gave to selected media outlets was likely scripted by those holding him.

Gui, a Chinese-born Swedish citizen, was reportedly seized by around ten men claiming to be police on a Beijing-bound train last month. He resurfaced on Friday in an interview with several handpicked media outlets, saying that he wanted Swedish authorities to stop sensationalising his case and using him as a chess piece.

angela gui
Angela Gui speaks at the conference. Photo: PubPerspectives, via Twitter.

Gui’s daughter Angela, who has been campaigning for his release, responded to the interview in an appearance via Skype at the International Publishers Congress in New Delhi on Sunday.

The Congress is a gathering of the International Publishers Association (IPA), a Geneva-based federation of publishers’ associations across the world. The association is set to present its 2018 Prix Voltaire to Gui Minhai “to “honour his bravery in continuing to publish despite the risks involved” on Monday. Gui sold political gossip titles banned in the mainland at Causeway Bay Books store in Hong Kong before he vanished from Pattaya, Thailand in 2015.

According to a transcript of the interview posted by Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post – one of news outlets to be offered access – Gui said: “I do not want to receive, and will not receive, this award. Otherwise, I would be so silly to be manipulated. I hope the International Publishers Association can respect my will.”

gui min hai interview
Gui Minhai. Photo: SCMP video screenshot.

Asked about Gui’s comment, Angela Gui said: “I don’t think there can be any reasonable doubt that everything he said in this so-called interview was scripted by the people who are holding him, especially in terms of what he said about the Prix Voltaire.”

“I know for a fact that that’s not his genuine wish, in addition to the other questionable statements he made,” she added.

Gui said her father was “very happy” that he was shortlisted for the Prix Voltaire last year.

Asked what the association could do to support the campaign for her father’s release, she said: “In terms of what can be done to help, that’s a very difficult question because there’s certainly no information [about her father’s current situation]. I’m unsure how to proceed in my own advocacy efforts. And of course, I think using the channels that are available to the IPA to exert pressure is very important.”

Causeway Bay Books.
Causeway Bay Books. Photo: Kris Cheng/HKFP.

She said that it was difficult to speculate as to whether the prize will have any impact on the Chinese authorities’ treatment of her father.

“One of the most significant features of Chinese law enforcement is that it’s increasingly opaque. Whether [the Prix Voltaire] will have any direct influence is hard to say.”

“However, I will say that in my experience from him being awarded other prizes in the past, I think a prize, especially such a significant one as this certainly helps in terms of public opinion and helps legitimise my father’s work.”

The interview was held at a detention facility in Ningbo and was arranged by the Ministry of Public Security. The SCMP said it was approached by the ministry to take part, and Gui said he had asked the ministry for the chance to tell the public “the truth.” State media outlets and Hong Kong’s Oriental Daily also attended.

Chinese authorities say Gui is being held on suspicion of leaking state secrets. Sweden has condemned China’s seizure of Gui on the train as a “brutal intervention.”

HKFP has contacted Angela Gui for comment.

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.