In a 20-minute media conference arranged by the Chinese government, Gui Minhai, the detained former Hong Kong publisher, warned the Swedish government that if it continued to use him to cause problems for Beijing, he would consider renouncing his Swedish citizenship.
Gui, a naturalised Swedish citizen who was born in mainland China, spoke with media outlets from Hong Kong, the mainland and Taiwan in a session arranged by China’s Ministry of Public Security.
The South China Morning Post agreed to take part, provided no conditions were put on the questions it could ask, after being approached by the ministry on Wednesday.
Here is an excerpt from the interview:
Did you request this meeting, or did the Ministry of Public Security order you to do it because they wanted you to say certain things to the media?
Thank you everyone for coming here to interview me. I’m Gui Minhai. I know that Sweden has recently sensationalised things about me. I have already written a letter to Sweden’s ambassador to China, Anna Lindstedt. I have stated that I do not want Sweden to continue to sensationalise what has happened to me. But obviously, Sweden has not stopped doing so. I felt that it was necessary for me to come out and say something. I asked the public security authorities for a chance to meet the media in order to tell the public what has happened, and to tell the truth.
Last October, after I finished serving the sentence for my traffic offence, I rented a place to live in Ningbo for a while mainly to be with my old mother who has not been healthy. … My three sisters could also all get together. We could even play mahjong. My mother was so happy when we all played mahjong with her. I felt like I was back in my childhood times. I felt so happy. My wife had also come to Ningbo for more than a month.
Since 2004, after I ran away from my drink-driving offence sentence, I had not returned to China. For a long time, I have not had the chance to show filial piety to my mother. I did not even come back for my father’s funeral. I have felt so painful about this for such a long time. This time, I have told my sisters that I planned to spend a happy Chinese New Year with my mother. But everything has since changed. That was because, after I was released [from prison in October 2017], the Swedish side has been contacting me persistently. They contacted me on a daily basis. They knew that I have an illegal business-operation case, which has not concluded yet and so the law does not allow me to leave the country. They knew this but they kept instigating me to return to Sweden. They kept telling me how much the Swedish government cared about me and the government wanted me to be back in Sweden.
Swedish diplomats secretly came to Ningbo and told me several proposals to get me to Sweden. They told me that I was just a step away from succeeding. I just needed to take this one step and I could make it to Sweden successfully. I have declined a few times. But because they were instigating me non-stop, I fell for it.
Sweden offered me a plan, and that was to use my medical appointment as an excuse to get to the Swedish embassy in Beijing. And then they could wait for an opportunity to get me to Sweden. On 20 January, two Swedish diplomats drove the consulate’s car to Ningbo and took me to Shanghai. We took a train to Beijing. During the journey, they asked me not to get off the train, for fear it would catch other people’s attention. In other words, I was to be taken to Beijing secretly. I was then taken away by the Ningbo public security authorities in accordance with the law when I was on the train.
I regret this very much now. The Swedish side has not told me in detail about the medical appointment in Beijing. For example, who were the doctors to see me? They told me that I would meet a Swedish person who was a Chinese expert, and another person from a US foundation.
Looking back, I might have become Sweden’s chess piece. I broke the law again under their instigation. My wonderful life has been ruined and I would never trust the Swedish ever again.
Some reports have suggested that you have ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis). Is that so?
So far, no doctors and experts have diagnosed me with ALS and I think Sweden has exaggerated this and manipulated [me]. About seven months ago, I discovered muscular atrophy on my left hand. In the past one to two months, that happened to my right hand and my left leg. Last October, I was accompanied by my family members to meet experts. [Medical examinations] have shown that I have big problems with my cervical vertebrae. My muscular atrophy could very likely be a result of my problems with my cervical vertebrae. The Swedish said that I have ALS, just because they were exaggerating and used this as an excuse to take me to Sweden as soon as possible. I know that ALS is incurable. If I really have ALS, it would still be incurable even if I get to Sweden. If the Swedish side really cared about me, then they can send doctors to see me in China. The public security authorities here have been paying much attention to my illness.
They have arranged experts from Shanghai and Ningbo to see and treat me.
Has the China side told you if they would let you leave China?
The case of my illegal business has not yet been concluded. Thus, before that case has been concluded, I am not allowed to leave the country, according to the law.
Why has the Swedish side wanted so much to take you to Sweden? Do you want to seek treatment there?
When I was in Sweden, the Swedish government never paid me special attention. I have never felt that I was truly recognised as a Swedish [citizen]. When I was living in Sweden, when a Swedish friend introduced me to another person, the person would say, “let me introduce a Chinese friend to you”. The sense of recognition is one matter. The other matter is that, for a very long time, about 10 years, I did not live in Sweden. I lived in Germany.
After I turned myself in and subsequently served my sentence, the Swedish government started to pay me special attention. I don’t know if they were paying me attention or just manipulating me. The year 2018 is election year in Sweden … some politicians might be using me for political gains. I can’t rule out that some are trying to use me to create trouble for the Chinese government. … I have seen through the Swedish government. If they continue to create troubles, I may consider giving up my Swedish citizenship.
What’s your plan for the future?
I want to live a down-to-earth life. My family said I was silly to be manipulated so easily. They hoped that I would live in China. I am willing to live a peaceful life in China.
So you do not want to leave China?
Yes. I hope I can live in China.
Are you being detained in this detention facility? Can you make contact with your family members?
I am staying inside the detention facility.
Some reports have suggested that Chinese officials told Swedish officials that you met them illegally and have given them secret information. What was the nature of that information?
I am sorry. I do not want to answer this question.
The International Publishers Association recently gave you the Prix Voltaire award (honouring a person or organisation adjudged to have made a significant contribution to the defense and promotion of freedom to publish in the world). Do you want to go to personally accept the award?
Has it been announced? I didn’t know about this. In 2017, I was nominated for this. But I did not win. It was strange that I was given this Prix Voltaire now … I do not want to receive, and will not receive, this award. Otherwise, I would be so silly to be manipulated. I hope the International Publishers Association can respect my will.
In October 2017, the Chinese foreign ministry said you had been released and had walked free after serving your two-year [drink driving] sentence. Why is it that, a few months later, you have been detained?
That was because I have violated Chinese laws and have made mistakes. I don’t want to get to the specifics. Thank you very much for coming here to interview me, and I have said all I have wanted to say.
Do you have a message for your daughter? She cared about you very much.
I feel ashamed about myself. I have made mistakes. I have promised my old mother that I would spend Lunar New Year with her. My message to my family is that I hope that [they] will live a good life. Don’t worry about me. I will solve my own problems. Secondly, I hope they will not be manipulated by anyone.
What are you feeling right now after going through so much these past two years?
OK, I will say a few more words. After I turned myself in and served the two-year sentence, it was a good thing for me. [Having] served my term, I am feeling down-to-earth now. I feel that I have redeemed my sin. I feel relieved.