Dear Gui Minhai, We warmly welcome you to Göteborg Book Fair, 27-30 September 2018. We would very much like to invite you to participate in a seminar on the Friday, when we could together raise concern about the situation in China.
We are very interested in what you have to say. One of the themes for this year’s Book Fair is respect, and we are certain that you, with your experience in both Sweden and China, can give us important perspectives regarding literature.
We understand, of course, that there is a problem regarding our invitation.
Given the current situation, you cannot travel to the Book Fair, or anywhere else for that matter. For the past three years you have been imprisoned in China. On the 17th October, 2015, you left your holiday home in Pattaya in Thailand, and disappeared without a trace. Three months later, the state-controlled television in China broadcast a video in which you explained that you had travelled to China voluntarily, in order to serve your sentence for a travel accident you allegedly caused back in 2003.
The statement, in which you also confirmed that you did not want any help from abroad, was obviously fabricated by the Chinese authorities. If you could come to the Book Fair, it would be very interesting to hear more about that as well. Were you forced to make that statement? Were you threatened?
You were suddenly released in October 2017. According to the official Chinese statement you were now free, but were still not allowed to leave the country, and on the 20th of January this year you were detained again. This time you were taken right in front of the eyes of Swedish diplomats. Later on, you were forced to make a new statement in which you accused the Swedish government of using your case in a campaign against China.
The Chinese media are often used in this manner. Intellectuals and opposition figures are shown on television reading fabricated confessions, and praising the Chinese regime. These forced confessions are often obtained through torture, and then spread widely through the Chinese media world. The accused are condemned by the general public before the trial has been held. A well thought out strategy in order to crush freedom of expression in China. How can we, in a joint effort, change this situation?
With this open letter, and this official invitation to you, Gui Minhai, we would also like to appeal to the Chinese authorities - please let us welcome Gui Minhai to Sweden and Göteborg, a city of refuge for writers. We also hope that the Swedish government continues to work intensively on your case.
If nothing happens, the invitation stands. Year after year.
There is a place for you, Gui Minhai, at Göteborg Book Fair.
And until the day you are free and can decide for yourself where you want to travel, what you want to say, and what books you would like to publish, that place remains empty.
Frida Edman, Director, Göteborg Book Fair
Jesper Bengtsson, Chair, Swedish PEN
Eva Gedin, Chair, The Swedish Publishers’ Association
Kristina Ahlinder, Director, The Swedish Publishers’ Association
Eva Bonnier, Chair, The Swedish Publishers’ Association Freedom-to-Publish Committee
Kristenn Einarsson, Chair, International Publishers Association Freedom to Publish Committee
21 August 2018