FILE - In this June 18, 2016, file photo, a picture of missing bookseller Gui Minhai is shown on a placard beside freed Hong Kong bookseller Lam Wing-kee, as the protesters are marching to the Chinese central government's liaison office in Hong Kong. A court in eastern China announced Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020, that it has sentenced Gui, a naturalized Swedish citizen, to 10 years in prison. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung, File)

China sentences Swedish bookseller to 10 years in prison

February 24, 2020 - 10:59 pm

BEIJING (AP) — A court in eastern China announced Tuesday that it has sentenced Gui Minhai, a naturalized Swedish citizen, to 10 years in prison.

The Ningbo Intermediate People's Court convicted the 55-year-old Gui of “illegally providing intelligence overseas," the court said in a statement published online.

For years, Gui sold gossipy books about Chinese leaders in the semi-autonomous city of Hong Kong. He first disappeared in 2015, when he was believed to have been abducted by Chinese agents from his seaside home in Thailand.

Four other people who worked for the same publishing company also went missing that year, only to turn up months later in police custody in mainland China. Gui is the only one who remains in detention.

He was initially released into house arrest in Ningbo, the eastern Chinese city where he was born, but police detained him once again in 2018 while he was on a train to Beijing in the company of two Swedish diplomats.

Gui's arrest has been a source of friction between Beijing and Stockholm. In November, Sweden's culture minister awarded the bookseller the annual Tucholsky literary prize despite a threat from the Chinese ambassador to ban her from entering the country.

Standing next to Gui’s empty seat at a ceremony in Stockholm, Culture Minister Amanda Lind said it was “crucial for culture and democracy that artists and authors can work freely.”

The Ningbo court said Gui applied in 2018 to restore his Chinese citizenship. He pleaded guilty and will not appeal his sentence, the court said.

Human rights groups have repeatedly accused China of extracting forced confessions from individuals it perceives to be opponents of the ruling Communist Party.

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