Chinese authorities’ seizure of Swedish-Chinese publisher Gui Minhai while being escorted to a medical appointment by Swedish diplomats is an outrageous violation of the rule of law, human rights, and free expression, PEN America said today.

Gui was traveling to Beijing by train for a medical exam after showing symptoms of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) with two Swedish diplomats on Saturday, January 20, when he was seized by plainclothes police and forcibly removed from the train. After the incident, Chinese officials reportedly told Swedish diplomats that Gui was suspected of sharing secret information with the Swedes, and of meeting them illegally. Within China, deliberate deprivation of adequate medical care is a common tactic against political prisoners, with a documented pattern of denial of medical care or medical parole for sick political prisoners.

“China’s treatment of publisher Gui Minhai—a story of abduction, detention, and now denial of medical care—demonstrates flagrant disregard for the rule of law and human rights,” said Summer Lopez, Senior Director of Free Expression Programs at PEN America. “China’s reported claims that it believes Gui has been sharing ‘secret information’ with Swedish diplomats is laughable—the only information that Gui would have to share would be on his own mistreatment at the hands of Chinese security forces. The entire international community should condemn this outrageous act.”

Gui Minhai is the co-owner of the Hong Kong-based Mighty Current Publishing House. In October 2015, he was abducted by Chinese security agents from his vacation house in Thailand and detained in China for two years without charge. Gui is one of five booksellers from the Causeway Bay Bookstore, known for selling books banned within mainland China, who disappeared under mysterious circumstances in late 2015, only to reappear under Chinese custody in what has become known as the “Causeway Bay Bookstore Incident.” Gui, a Swedish citizen, first resurfaced in early 2016 in a confessional video that evidence suggests was staged. In October 2017, after two years of detention with only limited contact with Swedish officials and no contact with family or friends, Gui was officially released from detention but forced to remain in China and to report regularly to police.

Gui Minhai and the cases of the five booksellers from the Causeway Bay Bookstore are detailed in the 2016 PEN America report, Writing on the Wall: Disappeared Booksellers and Free Expression in Hong Kong. In April 2017, Gui was awarded the Jeri Laber Award by the Association of American Publishers International Freedom to Publish Committee (IFTPC). The award was presented to his daughter, Angela, at the 2017 PEN America Literary Gala.


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], +1.646.981.0685