NEW YORK—China must unambiguously establish the whereabouts of Swedish publisher Gui Minhai and demonstrate to the world that he is—as they claim—free from detention, PEN America said today.

Gui Minhai, a Swedish writer and publisher, disappeared from his Thailand vacation home on October 172015. Gui is one of the “Causeway Bay Bookstore Five,” five booksellers associated with the Hong Kong-based Causeway Bay Bookstore and its affiliated Mighty Current publishing house, who disappeared in late 2015 only to re-emerge in Chinese custody; it is widely understood that Chinese security agents are responsible for their disappearances. In early 2016, Gui and his four colleagues appeared in a series of “confessional videos” which are widely believed to have been scripted and staged by Chinese authorities. Gui has been held in custody, with no access to legal counsel and no contact with family or friends, for over two years.

On October 24, his daughter Angela Gui stated that the Swedish Embassy in Beijing had previously been informed by Chinese authorities that Gui was to be released on October 17. Swedish officials seeking to meet with Gui on the 17th were informed by a Chinese official that he had already been released. However, Gui Minhai has not contacted his family or friends, and Gui’s whereabouts are not publicly known.

Gui’s reported “release” from detention follows soon after Chinese authorities claimed they had “released” poet and artist Liu Xia. Liu, who has been under house arrest since 2010, has not been publicly seen since the death of her husband Liu Xiaobo on July 13 2017; journalists and diplomats trying to meet with her have been physically rebuffed. A video of Liu claiming she has voluntarily chosen to remain isolated out of grief, released on August 18, has been widely interpreted by many observers—including PEN America—as likely staged.

“It is impossible to believe that Gui Minhai is free when he has not contacted his family or friends, when he has not been seen by anyone, and when his whereabouts are not publicly known,” said James Tager, Senior Manager of Free Expression Programs at PEN America. “Chinese authorities cannot simply claim that Gui is free without evidence. We have called for Gui’s freedom during the months and years that he has been in illegal detention, and we will continue to call for it now.”

PEN America has followed the case of Gui Minhai and his fellow booksellers closely, detailed in the 2016 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