As search for five missing Hong Kong booksellers continues, Chinese state media are reporting that one of them had turned himself in to mainland authorities in connection with a deadly car accident that took place many years ago.
Gui Minhai, 51, a mainland China-born Swedish national who co-owns Mighty Current Media Co., has surrendered after being on the run for 12 years over a drink-driving conviction, the reports say.
Gui was involved in a hit-and-run incident in Ningbo in December 2003 which resulted in the death of a female college student, according to the reports carried by Xinhua and CCTV.
It is said that he was found guilty the next year and given a two-year jail term with two years probation.
But Gui fled China to avoid punishment, leaving the country with a fake ID, the reports alleged.
According to the Xinhua report, Gui said that he returned to the mainland voluntarily to shoulder responsibility for his actions.
Gui’s publishing house is known for selling books critical of China and its leadership through a store in Hong Kong’s Causeway Bay district.
He disappeared in October 2015 while on holiday in Pattaya, Thailand, according to his daughter, who lives in Britain.
There has been widespread speculation in Hong Kong that Gui and four other executives of Mighty Current Media were abducted by mainland security officials and smuggled across the border into China.
State media quoted Gui as saying that although he is a Swedish national, he has roots in China and that he hopes Swedish authorities will respect his choice and let him resolve his problem on his own.
Despite the purported confession, which saw Gui appearing on CCTV, observers have expressed several doubts about the veracity of the story put out by mainland authorities, Ming Pao Daily noted.
Some people pointed out that the Chinese name of the missing Gui Minhai is somewhat different from the mentioned by state media, although they have the same pronunciation.
Another is that the driver of vehicle involved in the 2003 accident had earlier been reported to be a 46-year-old person, but Gui’s age would have been only 39 then.
Xinhua also failed to disclose the location of Gui’s detention, merely saying that he is at “some place”.
The Thai government has said that it has no record of Gui leaving that country, a situation that wouldn’t be possible if Gui really returned to China voluntarily.
Meanwhile, Gui’s daughter said she has never heard his father mention any car accident in China.
She still believes that his disappearance was related to the publishing of books banned in the mainland.
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