Gui Minhai, the Hong Kong bookseller and publisher who has twice been seized by Chinese authorities--most recently on January 20--is being awarded the International Publishers Association's Prix Voltaire for "his bravery in continuing to publish despite the risks involved." The association added that he "has contributed to the free circulation of ideas, participating in human rights conferences and sitting on the board of Independent Chinese PEN. His treatment at the hands of the Chinese authorities has had a chilling effect on Hong Kong's once vibrant and audacious publishing industry."
Kristenn Einarsson, chair of the IPA's Freedom to Publish Committee, which bestows the Prix Voltaire, commented: "The plight of Gui Minhai is an example of the risks some publishers face to bring diverse authors' voices to the public. It is only right that the publishing community commends him for his bravery, when that bravery has seen him deprived of his freedom."
The prize will be presented at the International Publishers Congress in New Delhi on February 12.
In October 2015, Gui Minhai, co-owner of Hong Kong publishing company Mighty Current and its bookstore, Causeway Bay Bookstore, was kidnapped in Thailand by Chinese agents (purportedly to answer for a decades-old car accident). According to the government, he was released last October but not allowed to leave China. Ten days ago, he was seized while he was traveling on a train to Beijing for medical treatment. According to the New York Times, Gui, who is a Swedish citizen, was in the company of Swedish diplomats on the train.
The Chinese government's animus apparently came in part because of Mighty Current's publishing of Xi Jinping and His Lovers, a work of fiction based on true events in the Chinese leader's romantic life. Four other Mighty Current staff were kidnapped by the Chinese government, too, in 2015.
The American Booksellers Association has sent a letter to the U.S. State Department urging it to investigate the abduction of Gui Minhai, stating, in part, "The continued harassment and detention of Mr. Gui poses a serious threat to free expression. Mighty Current is known for producing and selling books that are critical of the Chinese government, which are regularly banned in mainland China but available in Hong Kong, and was accused in a Communist Party publication of 'stirring up troubles on the mainland.' This case has sent the terrifying message to writers, publishers, and booksellers in Hong Kong that tackling politically sensitive topics can imperil an individual's freedom and safety."