(New York, NY) — A Chinese court’s issuance of a 10-year prison sentence to Swedish bookseller and author Gui Minhai, for “illegally providing intelligence,” is an absurd sentence based on fabricated charges and an unfair trial, PEN America said today.

The bookseller and writer Gui Minhai, who has been in Chinese detention since October 2015, was sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment, as well as five years’ deprivation of “political rights,” by the Ningbo Intermediate People’s Court in Zhejiang Province on Tuesday, February 25.

Gui is one of five booksellers affiliated with the Causeway Bay Bookstore in Hong Kong, each of whom were forcibly seized by Chinese state agents in late 2015. Gui himself, a Swedish citizen originally from China, was illegally abducted from his vacation home in Thailand. Gui is the only one of the five who remains in Chinese detention, and there are reports that he is in ill health.

In 2017, the conditions of Gui’s confinement were loosened to “residential surveillance,” but he was re-detained in January 2018 while traveling with Swedish diplomats for a medical exam. PEN America called Gui’s 2018 seizure an “outrageous violation of human rights and the rule of law in China.”

The Chinese government has previously alleged that Gui has leaked official information to foreign powers, but has offered no public information about how he supposedly did so, particularly given that he has spent the last four-plus years in some form of Chinese state custody.

“Gui Minhai’s 10-year prison sentence is a wildly unjust punishment, based on absurd and politically motivated charges, resulting from an unannounced trial, within a legal system that has systematically denied Gui any due process. Simply put, this is a farce,” said James Tager, Deputy Director of Free Expression Research and Policy at PEN America. “It is obvious that the Chinese government simply wants an excuse to keep Gui in prison, and have manufactured a set of criminal charges and a matching conviction to allow them to do so.”

The court announcement stated that Gui has accepted his conviction and will not appeal. As well, the announcement alleges that Gui, who had renounced his Chinese citizenship, acted to restore his Chinese citizenship in 2018, the year he was re-arrested by Chinese authorities.

“We must remember that Gui Minhai was previously forced to participate in a series of staged confessions after he was abducted. Any statement that the Chinese government makes on Gui’s behalf should be viewed as not credible. It is especially difficult to believe that Gui Minhai would act to re-assert his Chinese citizenship in 2018, after his abduction by Chinese security agents and after years of illegal detention.” Tager added.

Gui’s sentencing comes only four months after Swedish PEN awarded him the 2019 Tucholsky Prize, its annual award for persecuted writers. In response, Chinese officials threatened that the event would bring “countermeasures” against Sweden. PEN America’s own advocacy for Gui includes its 2016 report on the Causeway Bay Bookseller Disappearances, Writing on the Wall.


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.

CONTACT: Gina Chung, Communications Manager, gchung@pen.org, +1 201 952 6484