HONG KONG – Mainland Chinese authorities have released a detained Hong Kong bookseller and he has been reunited with his relatives, one of his friends said Friday.
Chinese dissident poet Bei Ling said family members confirmed to him that Gui Minhai has been released, days after the Chinese and Swedish governments made similar announcements but provided few details.
Gui, a Swedish citizen, was one of five employees of a Hong Kong bookshop specializing in salacious tales about high-level Chinese politics who were believed to have been abducted and spirited to the mainland two years ago.
China-born Gui disappeared from his Thai holiday home while the four other men, who have already been released, were last seen in Hong Kong.
Their case reinforced rising concerns about rule of law being undermined in the semiautonomous Chinese city, which is promised civil liberties such as freedom of speech until 2047. The books the men sold from their Causeway Bay Bookshop were popular with visiting tourists from mainland China, where such titles are banned.
Bei said he was informed that Gui is in the eastern city of Ningbo and is spending time with his elderly mother and two sisters.
He added that it's still unclear whether Gui enjoys genuine liberty or whether he's still under the control of authorities.
"I cannot say free; I just say he's out of jail and is now with his family" in Ningbo, Bei said by phone from Boston. "I think he now cannot talk with (anyone) outside, only with family."
He added that Gui plans to apply for a Swedish passport and return to Germany, where his wife lives.
China's foreign ministry said in a brief statement on Tuesday that Gui had been released on Oct. 17 after serving a prison term involving a traffic offense from more than a decade ago that he was involved but gave no further information. Sweden's Foreign Ministry said the same day it was informed by Chinese authorities that Gui was released but sought more information. Those announcements were disputed by his daughter, Angela Gui, who said his whereabouts were unclear.