Calls for bookseller's release grow louder

Top News | 25 Jan 2018

The European Union has joined Sweden in calling on China to immediately release a Swedish book publisher who was taken off a train in front of his country's diplomats by mainland police four days ago.

The case of Hong Kong-based Gui Minhai, 53, has sparked a diplomatic row between Stockholm and Beijing, with mainland authorities declining to give any details about his whereabouts amid concerns about his health.

Daughter Angela Gui said he was detained by 10 plainclothes police while on a train to Beijing from Ningbo, where he was living, while accompanied by two Swedish diplomats on Saturday.

She said he was traveling to see a Swedish doctor as he was showing symptoms of the neurological disease ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease.

"We expect the Chinese authorities to immediately release Mr Gui Minhai from detention and allow him to reunite with his family, to get consular support and to get medical support," EU ambassador Hans Dietmar Schweisgut said.

Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom earlier called for Gui's release, saying he should "be given the opportunity" to meet Swedish diplomatic and medical personnel.

But foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said: "Any foreign country should respect China's case-handling organs as they handle foreign citizen cases in China according to the law."

Gui, one of five Hong Kong-based booksellers known for salacious titles about the lives of China's political elite, first went missing in 2015 while on holiday in Thailand and resurfaced at an undisclosed location in China.

Authorities said they had released Gui in October, but it was unclear to what extent he was a free man after serving a jail sentence over "a traffic incident."

Wallstrom said international rules give diplomatic staff the right to provide a Swedish citizen with consular support.

Hua said Chinese officials would "provide convenience and assistance to officials of foreign embassies and consulates as they discharge their responsibilities."

Hua added: "At the same time, no one in China can violate Chinese laws."

Amnesty International described Saturday's incident as "absolutely appalling" and called for Gui to be released and allowed to seek medical treatment.

ASSOCIATED PRESS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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