The IPA today applauded the decision by the Association of American Publishers (AAP) to award its 2017 Jeri Laber Award to Swedish publisher and bookseller Gui Minhai, who has been held in incommunicado detention without charge in mainland China for more than 18 months.
IPA Freedom to Publish Committee chair Kristenn Einarsson said: ‘Gui Minhai is a very deserving recipient of the Jeri Laber Award. His case is deeply troubling to all publishers for a number of reasons. Not only was he abducted from his holiday home in Thailand, but he has been denied legal assistance or consular access, forced to make a confession on TV and prevented from having contact with his family, who even now do not know for sure where he is held. This series of abusive treatments has been carried out with one clear aim – to deter Hong Kong’s publishers from producing books that are embarrassing to the Chinese leadership. It is the job of organizations like the AAP and the IPA to highlight such violations and loudly condemn them at the highest level.’
The IPA has followed this case closely since Gui and four other Hong Kong-based bookmen with links to his Mighty Current publishing house and Causeway Bay Bookstore were abducted.
As the IPA reported in October 2016, Angela Gui told the IPA Freedom to Publish Committee at Frankfurt Book Fair that international attention was the only way to pressure the Chinese government into ameliorating her father’s situation. A month later, the IPA’s Director of Communications and Freedom to Publish, Ben Steward, and Thai publisher and IPA Executive Committee member Trasvin Jittidecharak joined a five-strong delegation to Hong Kong for a visit that culminated in the launch of a PEN America report into the abductions.
The IPA continues to broach Gui’s situation with its Chinese member, the Publishers Association of China (PAC), which has in turn petitioned Beijing for new information. So far the responses have adhered to the official line that Gui is being held over a traffic incident in 2003. The IPA will continue to work with the PAC to push for more information and impress upon Beijing the level of international concern about Gui’s case.
The AAP’s Jeri Laber Award is one of two international prizes that specifically recognize the role of publishers in ensuring freedom of expression. The other is the IPA’s own Prix Voltaire, which celebrates the courage of publishers who enable writers to exercise their freedom of expression despite incurring considerable personal risks to do so. As announced on 27 March, the 2017 prize will be presented on 29 September, at Göteborg Book Fair, Sweden.