NEW YORK—A recent video of detained Swedish bookseller Gui Minhai, in which he claims not to desire international attention for his case, fits a pattern of staged or coerced statements made at the behest of Chinese authorities, PEN America said today.

On February 9, bookseller Gui Minhai was featured in a video interview in which he accused Swedish authorities of “sensationalizing” his case and said he felt like Swedish authorities had made him a “chess piece” and that he “would never trust the Swedish ever again.” The release of Gui Minhai’s video comes days before Gui was awarded in absentia the prestigious Prix Voltaire from the International Publishers Association. During his interview, Gui reportedly disavowed the award, saying “I do not want to receive, and will not receive, this award.”

These comments come days after Chinese security agents took Gui Minhai into custody for a second time in two years. On January 20, Chinese security agents seized Gui Minhai while he was traveling with Swedish diplomatic officials to receive a medical exam. Gui has reportedly recently been exhibiting symptoms of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), symptoms which he did not appear to have before entering Chinese detention.

“It is painfully obvious that this video has been staged and that these statements are what the Chinese government wants said, and not what Gui Minhai himself want to say,” said Summer Lopez, Senior Director of Free Expression Programs at PEN America. “Gui Minhai’s claim that he has become a ‘chess piece’ of the Swedish government—as a result of their efforts to gain his freedom and to supply him with adequate medical care—are farcical. From the beginning, it is the Chinese government that has treated him as a pawn. They abducted him, moved him against his will, and kept him in illegal detention for years. This clearly-staged video is yet another demonstration of China’s lack of regard for international law or human rights.”

Gui is one of five booksellers associated with the Mighty Current Publishing House and its affiliated Causeway Bay Bookstore who were seized by Chinese security agents in late 2015, in an episode known as the “Causeway Bay Bookstore Disappearances.” Gui was detained in China for two years without charge, before being placed on supervised release but forbidden to leave China. PEN America has documented the events of the Causeway Bay Bookstore Disappearances in its 2016 report Writing on the Wall, in which it concluded that the booksellers’ “confessional” videos were staged. PEN America has also published analysis on how China’s scripted “confessional” videos often make a key point of rejecting international assistance or intervention. This includes a video in 2016 in which Gui Minhai previously stated that he did not want Swedish officials to intervene on his behalf.


PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. 


Anoosh Gasparian, External Relations Coordinator: [email protected], 646-981-0685