Stockholm has confirmed to HKFP that jailed bookseller Gui Minhai is a Swedish citizen, after claims that he had sought to reinstate his Chinese citizenship.
Gui was found guilty of “illegally providing intelligence” to overseas parties by the Ningbo Intermediate People’s Court in Zhejiang Province on Monday and was sentenced to 10 years in jail.
Gui was among five Hong Kong-based booksellers affiliated with Causeway Bay Books, which sold political gossip titles. He disappeared in Thailand in late 2015, only to reappear in mainland China “confessing” on state TV to various crimes. He served two years in prison.
The court on Monday said Gui – who was born in China – had applied to restore his Chinese citizenship in 2018. As China does not recognise dual citizenship, it meant that Gui would have to renounce his Swedish nationality.
— Hong Kong Free Press (@HongKongFP) February 25, 2020
However, Sweden’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs told HKFP on Tuesday that Gui is still a citizen. They said they noted the claims over his nationality, but “Swedish citizenship can only be renounced after an examination and a decision by the Swedish Migration Agency.”
The ministry added they are seeking official information about the case and are demanding that Gui be released.
“Our Embassy is now putting its full focus on the matter, in part seeking more information and in part to obtain consular access… We will continue to focus our efforts on obtaining his release,” a press officer said, adding that they are trying to send a Swedish doctor to Gui.
Meanwhile, Peter Dahlin – a fellow Swedish national who also appeared in a televised “confession” in China – told HKFP that the sentencing showed that Beijing did not care about “appearances” any more.
“The charge is ludicrous, the only ‘state secrets’ that Gui may have is knowledge about how Chinese agents kidnapped him in Thailand, and about the torture he has endured after being returned to China. It has long been feared that China could not let Gui leave, as it could not let information about his treatment, and kidnapping, come out, and this is just one in a long list of steps they have taken. As for his supposed renouncing of his Swedish citizenship, it has no legal bearing of course, as Gui has only Swedish citizenship, and not Chinese,” he said.
Additional reporting: Tom Grundy.