In October 2015, Mr. Gui was living in Hong Kong and preparing to publish an uncensored biography of Mr. Xi when he was abducted from his vacation home in Thailand and spirited into China. Four other Hong Kong-based booksellers disappeared around the same time; they were eventually released after delivering forced confessions broadcast by Chinese media.
Mr. Gui was treated more harshly. He, too, appeared on Chinese television to say he had voluntarily returned to the country to face justice for violating probation in a drunken-driving case. A year later, he was released in the city of Ningbo but not allowed to leave China. When his health began to deteriorate — he showed symptoms of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS — Swedish diplomats arranged for him to travel to Beijing for a medical examination at the embassy. But Mr. Gui was abducted from the train by plainclothes officers in full view of two Swedish diplomats who accompanied him.
Charged with providing state secrets to foreigners, Mr. Gui was forced to hold another confessional news conference and then subjected to a secret trial beginning in January. A court statement announcing his sentence Tuesday said he did not want to appeal his sentence and had applied to restore his Chinese citizenship. It’s impossible to believe either of these reported wishes are voluntary; on the contrary, they can only reinforce suspicions that Mr. Gui has been coerced and probably tortured.
Sweden protested the sentence and demanded access to “our citizen,” which has been denied since the last abduction. But the Xi regime’s reaction to such démarches has been to double down on its brutish tactics. Its ambassador in Stockholm has crudely threatened “countermeasures” against Sweden because of the government’s advocacy for Mr. Gui. The publisher’s daughter, Angela Gui, was corralled in a Stockholm hotel last year by two Chinese businessmen, who tried to browbeat her into remaining silent about the case.
Mr. Gui’s case is a particularly shocking example of the Xi regime’s attempts to intervene in other countries, a campaign that has included pressuring critical academics at Western universities, demanding that U.S. airlines and the National Basketball Association toe Beijing’s line on Hong Kong and pulling the visas of three China-based Wall Street Journal reporters because of a headline on an opinion column. If the West bends to this kind of coercion, Mr. Xi will have succeeded in exporting his authoritarianism. That’s why it’s essential that other democratic governments, including the Trump administration, join Sweden in demanding freedom for Mr. Gui.