Chinese-born Swedish bookseller Gui Minhai has been sentenced to 10 years in jail for illegally providing intelligence overseas, the Ningbo Intermediate People’s Court in China said in a Feb. 25 statement on its website.
Gui, who sold books critical of China’s political leadership while previously based in Hong Kong, was detained by mainland police in 2018. He was seized by plainclothes police while with Swedish diplomats.
Gui’s situation soured relations between Sweden and China in the months leading up to his sentencing, with Chinese officials warning Swedish counterparts against meddling in Chinese internal affairs.
Swedish foreign minister Ann Linde has demanded his release.
The Ningbo court statement said Gui, 55, had stated that he wouldn’t appeal the sentence.
Chinese officials objected to the Swedish division of PEN, a literary organization, awarding Gui the 2019 Tulcholsky Prize, praising his service to free speech. Swedish culture minister Amanda Lind defied Chinese diplomatic threats of “countermeasures” to present the prize.
PEN America said in a Feb. 25 statement that China’s punishment was “an absurd sentence based on fabricated charges and an unfair trial.”
“Simply put, this is a farce,” said James Tager, deputy director of free expression research and policy at the nonprofit. “It is obvious that the Chinese government simply wants an excuse to keep Gui in prison, and have manufactured a set of criminal charges and a matching conviction to allow them to do so.”
Gui is the highest-profile of five booksellers who disappeared between October and December 2015, all linked to a Hong Kong bookshop famous for its gossipy texts on Chinese political leaders.
Such books are banned on the mainland but their production and sale are legal within Hong Kong under the extensive freedoms guaranteed as part of the 1997 handover of the city from British colonial rule to Chinese sovereignty.
Gui was initially abducted in the Thai beach resort of Pattaya before surfacing, like the others, in detention in mainland China.
Three of his colleagues were detained in mainland China, while another was widely thought to have been abducted in Hong Kong and spirited across the border. Gui is the only one to have remained in detention.
His daughter Angela, along with other supporters, repeatedly called for his release, saying he’s a victim of illegal political persecution.
By Huizhong Wu. The Epoch Times contributed to this report.