Publisher detained in China ‘confesses’, blames Sweden

Hong Kong bookseller Lam Wing-kee stands next to a placard with picture of missing bookseller Gui Minhai, in front of his book store in Hong Kong as the protesters are marching to the Chinese central government's liaison office. Sweden has condemned China's "brutal" detention of a Swedish citizen who sold politically sensitive books and whose seizure while he traveled with diplomats stunned Western governments. (File photo/AP)
Updated 10 February 2018
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Publisher detained in China ‘confesses’, blames Sweden

SHANGHAI: Detained book publisher Gui Minhai has surfaced nearly three weeks after disappearing into police custody in China, confessing wrongdoing and accusing his adopted country Sweden of manipulating him like a “chess piece.”
It was unclear whether the Chinese-born Gui’s statement was made under duress, but video of his confession shows him flanked by two police officers and a close friend said the remarks were “not to be believed.”
The Chinese-born Gui, 53, was arrested on a train to Beijing last month while traveling with two Swedish diplomats — the second time he has vanished into Chinese custody in murky circumstances.
Sweden, the EU and the US have called for Gui’s release, with Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom on Monday calling his seizure “brutal.”
But Gui accused Sweden of “sensationalizing” his case.
“I have stated that I do not want Sweden to continue to sensationalize what has happened to me. But obviously, Sweden has not stopped doing so,” he said in the video.
“I felt that it was necessary for me to come out and say something.”
The video emerged from an “interview” set up on Friday with handpicked Chinese media, according to their reports.
Gui was traveling by train to Beijing from the eastern China city of Ningbo, where doctors had said he may have the neurological disease ALS.
He was to see a Swedish specialist in the capital but was arrested aboard the train.
Gui said Friday that Swedish officials had pressured him to leave China despite being barred from doing so due to pending legal cases.
“I have declined a few times. But because they were instigating me non-stop, I fell for it,” said Gui.
“Looking back, I might have become Sweden’s chess piece. I broke the law again under their instigation. My wonderful life has been ruined and I would never trust the Swedish ever again.”
Gui was one of five Hong Kong-based booksellers known for publishing gossipy titles about Chinese political leaders who disappeared in 2015 and resurfaced in mainland China.
Gui was on holiday in Thailand at the time.
He eventually re-emerged at an undisclosed Chinese location, confessing to involvement in a fatal traffic accident and smuggling illegal books into mainland China.
China has given scant details on his arrest but acknowledged on Tuesday that Gui was in custody under criminal law, without offering further specifics.
Chinese criminal suspects often appear in videotaped “confessions” that rights groups say sometimes bear the hallmarks of official arm-twisting.
Gui’s family members could not immediately be reached for comment.
But dissident poet Bei Ling, a friend of Gui’s, said there was “no doubt” that the publisher wanted to seek medical treatment overseas.
“I’m very shocked and very sad. It’s difficult to listen to him say these things,” Bei told AFP.
“I believe his statements, made under circumstances without freedom ... (are) not to be believed.”
“How can we believe whether the words of someone who is oppressed — like a prisoner — are real?” he said, adding that Gui looked “unwell.”
Gui’s relatives have previously expressed fears that he will receive a lengthy prison sentence, jeopardizing his health.
But on Friday, Gui said no doctors had diagnosed him with ALS, adding, “I think Sweden has exaggerated this and manipulated (me).”
“I have seen through the Swedish government. If they continue to create troubles, I may consider giving up my Swedish citizenship,” he said.


German city of Hamburg ato restrict older diesel vehicles

A car passes a traffic sign showing a ban on diesel cars at the Max-Brauer Allee in downtown Hamburg, Germany, on May 23, 2018. (REUTERS/Fabian Bimmer)
Updated 29 min 39 sec ago
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German city of Hamburg ato restrict older diesel vehicles

  • Diesel bans will affect two streets, non-Euro-6 models
  • Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government has long sought to avoid bans, as has the VDA auto industry lobby representing carmakers such as Volkswagen, Daimler and BMW.

BERLIN: Germany’s second largest city, Hamburg, will ban the most polluting diesel vehicles from two major streets from next week, a move that could spur others to follow suit and raise pressure on carmakers to consider costly vehicle refits.
Hamburg, home to around 1.8 million people, said on Wednesday the ban would start on May 31 and affect diesel models that do not meet the latest Euro-6 emissions standards.
This follows a ruling in February by Germany’s top administrative court that the cities of Stuttgart and Duesseldorf should consider bans for older diesels.
The detailed publication of that ruling last Friday showed local authorities were entitled to implement targeted bans with immediate effect to bring air pollution levels into line with European Union rules, although curbs affecting wider city areas should only be phased in over time.
Bans on diesel vehicles from city centers are also planned in Paris, Madrid, Mexico City and Athens by 2025, while the mayor of Copenhagen wants to bar new diesel cars from entering the city center as soon as next year.
Since the German ruling was disclosed, the environment minister of Germany’s northernmost state, Schleswig-Holstein, has said banning older diesel vehicles could also be an option for the regional capital Kiel, a city of about 250,000 people.
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government has long sought to avoid bans, as has the VDA auto industry lobby representing carmakers such as Volkswagen, Daimler and BMW.
Environment Minister Svenja Schulze — a member of the Social Democrats, junior partners in Merkel’s coalition government — urged carmakers to roll out retrofits for diesel cars to lower emissions. “Driving bans like those in Hamburg show how serious the situation is,” she told the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper. “It’s up to the car industry now.”
Levels of nitrogen oxide (NOx) emitted by diesel engines and known to cause respiratory disease should fall significantly as more efficient Euro-6 models are sold and emissions-cleaning software updates take effect, Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer was quoted as saying on Wednesday by the Augsburger Allgemeine newspaper.
The bans in Hamburg affect a section of about 1.6 km (one mile) on Stresemannstrasse, where the restrictions will apply only to commercial vehicles weighing 3.5 tons or more, and a section of about 580 meters on Max-Brauer-Allee, covering all diesel vehicles.
Both thoroughfares are in Altona, a busy district in the west of the city.
Drivers aiming for a destination on the two affected streets, including residents, trash collectors, suppliers and taxis, will be exempt from the restrictions as they are designed to filter out through traffic, a spokesman for Hamburg’s environment and energy department said.
Of the 330,000 diesel cars on Hamburg’s roads, only about 116,000 have the Euro-6 technology that was introduced in 2014, according to local government data.
Police will make random checks and fine drivers of older diesel cars 25 euros ($30) and truck owners up to 75 euros for violating the new rules, he said.