BEIJING (Reuters) – A Chinese court sentenced Chinese-born Swedish citizen Gui Minhai to 10 years in jail for illegally providing intelligence overseas on Monday, the Ningbo Intermediate People’s Court said in a statement on its website.
Gui, a bookseller previously based in Hong Kong who sold books critical of China’s political leadership, was detained by mainland police in 2018. He was seized by plainclothes police while with Swedish diplomats on a Beijing bound train.
Relations between Sweden and China soured in the months leading up to Monday’s sentencing, with Chinese officials warning Swedish counterparts of meddling in China’s internal affairs.
Swedish foreign minister Ann Linde said Gui Minhai should be released, sticking by a position that Sweden has held throughout.
“We also require access to our citizen to provide the consular support he is entitled to,” Linde said in a text message sent by her spokesman.
“We have not had access to or knowledge of any trial. Thus, we have not been able to review the indictment nor been able to offer access to legal counsel,” she said.
The Ningbo court statement said Gui, 55, had stated that he would not appeal the sentence and had asked to have his Chinese citizenship reinstated.
A spokesman for China’ foreign ministry told a news briefing in Beijing on Tuesday that Gui Minhai’s rights and interests have been fully guaranteed. He said consular visits in general were put on hold due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Chinese officials objected to Svenska PEN, a literary organization, awarding Gui Minhai 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.
Gui is the highest-profile of five booksellers who disappeared between October and December 2015, all linked to a Hong Kong bookshop known for its gossipy texts on Chinese political leaders.
Such books are banned on the mainland but their production and sale is 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 in 2015 before surfacing, like the others, in detention in mainland China. He was released in October 2017, before being arrested in January 2018.
- Sweden demands China release bookseller Gui Minhai
- China says all rights, interests of Gui Minhai fully guaranteed
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, has repeatedly called for his release, saying he is a victim of illegal political persecution.
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