China: Government organised interview lacks transparency

Photo from interview with Gui Minhai on February 10. Credit: SCMP

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) criticises the Public Security Ministry of China for allowing granting certain media access to an interview with detained book publisher, Gui Minhai.On February 10, Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post and Oriental Daily, Taiwan-based China Times, along with the state-owned Beijing Times, published an interview with detained Causeway Bay bookseller Gui Minhai. Gui was forcibly taken from a train outside Beijing on January 20, 2018 and was missing for several days, before he resurfaced in police custody.Gui Minhai gave a 20 minute interview to selected media outlets, during which he said that the Swedish government was using him as a chess piece for political gains in upcoming elections. Gui also said that he didn’t want to leave China, and was happily living with his mother and three sisters. He also said that Swedish officials had convinced him to travel to Beijing for a medical consultation as they believe he may be suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). In the interview, Gui threatened to give up his Swedish citizenship and said that he had ‘seen through the Swedish government’. He also said he called the interview voluntarily, because he wanted to tell the truth.According to the Beijing Times article, Gui is been investigated for ‘illegally providing state secrets to overseas’ and ‘endangering state security’, as he was carrying several state secrets when he was on the train.The IFJ was told that the Public Security Ministry called senior management at the above media, requesting them to do the interview. The journalists were not informed of the interview until the last minute. According to the South China Morning Post the interview did not have any conditions and was approached by the Ministry on February 7. No other media outlined details of the arranged interview.The IFJ Asia Pacific Office said: “This is not the first time that the Public Security Ministry has selectively chosen which media has access to so-called ‘exclusive’ interviews. Prior to Gui Minhai, the case of prominent human rights lawyer Wang Yu is another example. The arranging of interviews by the Ministry is highly unethical and does not treat the media in a fair and transparent manner.”Gui Minhai’s disappearance on January 20, comes after he was released from two years in prison in October 2017. Gui was serving two years for a traffic violation in 2003, which was he was charged with after he went missing in Thailand in October 2016 and resurfaced in Mainland China. Gui was one of five Causeway Bay booksellers who disappeared and resurfaced in Mainland China between October 2016 and January 2017.Last week, the IFJ joined the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) and the Swedish Journalist Union in demanding the release of Gui Minhai from custody.

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