Sweden has summoned the Chinese ambassador to the country to explain the latest apparent disappearance of a Hong Kong-based publisher who has Swedish citizenship.
Gui Minhai – one of five booksellers who became a symbol of dissent in China when they went missing in 2015 – was snatched from a train bound for Beijing while travelling with two Swedish diplomats, according to his daughter.
She says her father was being escorted to the Chinese capital from Ningbo city in Zhejiang province on Saturday to seek treatment for a neurological condition when he was detained. A Swedish doctor is said to have been flown in after Gui was reportedly diagnosed with ALS, a progressive neurodegenerative disease.
“They were on a train for five hours, I think, and at one of the stops before Beijing, there were about 10 men in plainclothes that came in and said they were from the police and just grabbed him and took him away. After that I haven’t heard anything,” said Angela Gui, who studies in Britain.
“I think it is quite clear that he has been abducted again and that he’s being held somewhere at a secret location,” she told Radio Sweden. “Given his health status, that’s very worrying”.
The Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom told the station that Beijing’s ambassador would be summoned. A ministry spokesman added that “strong measures on a high political level” were being taken.
However, Sweden's response so far has been called into question by Human Rights Watch, and by Swedish writer Jojje Olsson who has written a book about Gui's case.
Olsson later tweeted to quote a Swedish radio report that the foreign minister had been "promised a verdict" on Gui Minhai, and so did not want to comment.
The official version of Monday's news briefing by the Chinese Foreign Ministry made no mention of Gui Minhai and The Guardian's Beijing correspondent tweeted that his name had "vanished" from the transcript.
Gui Minhai, 53, ran a publishing company known for books critical of the Chinese government. Originally from Hong Kong, he went missing in Thailand where he was on holiday in October 2015. Chinese state media accused him of publishing books that slandered Communist Party leaders.
Months later, he appeared on Chinese television to make what his supporters and human rights activists said was a suspicious confession to being responsible for a fatal car accident more than a decade earlier.
Four other booksellers were released but Gui remained in custody until October last year. His daughter says he was then kept under strict police surveillance.
Western diplomats and observers of China have been quoted as saying that the government has become increasingly impervious to foreign criticism under leader Xi Jinping.