In October 2015, publisher Gui Minhai disappeared from his holiday home in Thailand. There was no trace of him until he appeared on state-controlled TV in the People’s Republic of China three months later. In a televised ‘confession’ Gui claimed that he had voluntarily surrendered himself to the Chinese authorities over his supposed involvement in a fatal hit-and-run incident which took place in December 2003. Since then, his whereabouts have been unknown, he has reportedly not had access to legal counsel and has been allowed no contact with his daughter who lives in the UK. It is suspected that his detention is connected to the distribution of banned books to mainland China.
Given the lack of clarity over his current whereabouts and legal situation, PEN considers Gui Minhai to be held in circumstances amounting to enforced disappearance, prohibited under customary international law, and to be detained in violation of Articles 9 and 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which China is a signatory.
Gui Minhai, a Swedish citizen, is a former board member of the Independent Chinese PEN Centre (ICPC) and former coordinator of the Centre’s Translation and Linguistic Rights Committee. He is a co-founder of Mighty Current, a publishing house based in Hong Kong which prints books often critical of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Gui’s precise whereabouts and condition are unknown. Although it is unknown whether he has been formally charged with any offence, it is suspected that he is being detained in connection with his work as a publisher for Mighty Current, and the distribution of banned books to mainland China.
Shortly after Gui Minhai’s disappearance in October 2015, four other employees from Mighty Current and its retail arm Causeway Book Store were arrested. Causeway Book Store manager Lin Rongji, manager Lu Bo, and staff member of the publishing house and book shop, Zhang Zhiping, are reported to have disappeared while travelling in mainland China in October 2015. Editor at the publishing house, Lee Bo, disappeared from Hong Kong on 30 December 2015.
In February 2016, Lin, Lu and Zhang each appeared in televised interviews in which they ‘confessed’ to running an illegal bookselling business. Lin later bravely came forward to reveal that the ‘confession’ had been scripted and coerced. He stated that during his detention ‘The main thrust of the questioning was to figure out my relationship with Causeway Bay Books and [its sister imprint] Mighty Current Publishing.’ All four returned to Hong Kong in March 2016.
Spread the word
Share details of Gui Minhai’s situation with friends and colleagues and on social media.
Send appeals to the Chinese authorities:
- Calling for the immediate and unconditional release of publisher Gui Minhai, as he is being held for the peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression;
- Reiterating serious concern for the safety of writers, academics, lawyers and activists in China, who are at risk of attack and imprisonment solely for the peaceful expression of their opinions;
- Calling on them to end its practice of enforced disappearance;
- Calling for an end to the use of forced ‘confessions’, which contravene an individual’s right to fair trial, enshrined in Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil, Cultural and Political Rights;
- Urging them to respect the ‘one country, two systems’ principle in operation in Hong Kong;
- Reminding them that as a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which provides for freedom of legitimate expression, the right not to be arbitrarily detained and the right to a fair trial, China is obliged to ‘refrain from acts that would defeat or undermine the treaty’s objective and purpose’;
- Urging them to ratify the ICCPR and the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances without delay.
His Excellency Xi Jinping
President of the People’s Republic of China
Fax: +86 10 6238 1025
Salutation: Your Excellency
Please copy your appeals to Chinese Embassy in your country. Contact details of the Chinese embassy in your country may be found here: Chinese embassies abroad
PEN has long followed the deteriorating climate for free expression in China with concern. Recent crackdowns have taken place not only in Beijing, but in numerous inland and coastal provinces, the Autonomous Regions of Tibet, Xinjiang, and Inner Mongolia, and in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.
In 2015, PEN International documented more than 40 ‘main cases’ of Chinese writers detained or imprisoned solely for the peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression, one of the highest numbers in the world. In July 2015, more than 300 human rights lawyers and their supporters were arrested; most were later released after interrogation with a warning or on bail, but more than 20 have been still detained without a trial. This has also had additional effects on freedom of expression in the country, as many of these lawyers—such as ICPC honorary member Pu Zhuqiang—have been frontline defenders for freedom of expression within the country.
Increasingly, free expression is suppressed not only in mainland China but in Hong Kong. The shocking disappearances of the Mighty Current publishers and booksellers are part of a larger crackdown on literary and journalistic figures in Hong Kong, including publishers YAO Wentian, WANG Jianming, and GUO Zhongxiao. In January 2016, British newspaper The Sunday Times reported that an internal Chinese Communist Party document had identified 14 publishing houses and 12 publications in Hong Kong to be ‘exterminated,’ an alarming indication of China’s hostility towards free expression in Hong Kong and determination to stifle it.