A missing Hong Kong bookseller reemerged over the weekend as mysteriously and suddenly as he disappeared from public a few months ago.
Appearing on Chinese state television, Gui Minhai, a 51-year-old Swedish citizen, confessed to his involvement in a hit-and-run incident in Ningbo, China, in December 2003.
“It is my own choice to come back and to confess my crime. It is nobody else’s business. I need to take responsibility for it myself,” he said, adding he voluntarily surrendered himself to Chinese authorities.
As if his disappearance wasn’t already unusual, the bookseller made the affair all the more confusing with his statement.
Gui vanished from his apartment in Thailand last October. He is one of the five missing people who are believed to have been detained for distributing books critical of mainland China.
China has vehemently denied all allegations, but Gui’s odd confession statement has made matters even more confusing. He claims he went to China to see his aging mother and turn himself over for a crime he committed more than a decade ago.
Even if Gui is telling the truth, there is no explanation as to why he suddenly went off the radar, just like his other four colleagues.
There’s a lot of debate as to the authenticity of the bookseller’s claims since many believe he could have made that statement under duress. And it is a strong possibility.
Last November, Amnesty International revealed in a report that using torture to extract confessions from suspects is still “entrenched” in pre-trial detention in China.
“Papering over a justice system that is not independent, where the police remain all-powerful and where there is no recourse when the rights of the defendants are trampled upon will do little to curb the scourge of torture and ill-treatment in China,” said Patrick Poon, China Researcher at Amnesty International. “If the government is serious about improving human rights it must start holding law enforcement agencies to account when they commit abuses.”