The ongoing turmoil in Hong Kong around dissident publishers being abducted by Chinese state security services took another strange twist yesterday when a missing bookseller unexpectedly showed up on China’s state-owned CCTV broadcaster.
According to local media, Gui Menhai, a Swedish national who co-owns publisher Mighty Current and Causeway Bay Books, has appeared on state television having been missing since October, when he went on holiday to Thailand and never came back.
The case, along with four other booksellers who are also missing, has caused uproar in Hong Kong, with accusations flying of China over-stepping its authority in the former British colony and illegally abducting its citizens because of the books they publish.
Causeway Bay Books sells salacious novels often featuring China’s ruling Communist party and its key members. The novels, mostly fictionalised and gossip-based, are extremely popular both in Hong Kong and mainland China, to the displeasure of the Chinese government.
Menhai’s case has caused particular concern given the fact that he was allegedly taken by Chinese authorities while in Thailand.
But now he has resurfaced saying he has voluntarily returned to China to face charges over a fatal drink-driving accident 11 years ago.
According to AFP, a tearful Menhai said in his interview, which was filmed at a detention centre: "I am taking my legal responsibilities, and am willing to accept any punishment.
"Although I now hold Swedish citizenship, deep down I still think of myself as a Chinese. My roots are in China. I hope the Swedish authorities would respect my personal choices, my rights and my privacy, and allow myself to deal with my own issues."
No explanation is given as to how Gui ended up in Chinese custody having been in Thailand.
According to several reports, Sweden has called on the Chinese and Thai ambassadors to explain Gui’s case.
Speaking to The Guardian, Angela Gui, the detained man’s daughter, said she did not believe her father gave himself up voluntarily.
"I do still believe he was abducted. I still think it is suspicious that he and his associates went missing. Even if it is true I don’t think that is why he is there," she said, refusing to comment on the drink-driving charge.
Earlier this month the UK government pressed China for information over the disappearance of bookseller Lee Bo, a British citizen who is the most recent bookseller to vanish.