Thank you, Mr. Chair and members of the committee.
I am grateful for this committee's concern for the situation in Hong Kong, and I feel honoured to be invited to give evidence here today. I'm the daughter of Swedish national Gui Minhai, one of five Hong Kong-based booksellers who were abducted and detained in mainland China in late 2015. In the five years since my father was kidnapped while on holiday in Thailand, I have worked to urge governments to take more decisive action in demanding his release and to prevent similar extraterritorial abductions from happening in the future.
My father has been kidnapped by Chinese government agents three times. He is currently serving a ten-year prison sentence. After being taken into custody on the Chinese mainland, he was held incommunicado with no access to legal assistance. He was forced to refuse contact with Swedish consular officials, effectively bypassing the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, and he was also forced to confess to crimes on Chinese television.
In October 2017, he disappeared again for six days after Chinese authorities claimed that he had been released. He resurfaced in Ningbo, Zhejiang province, under a type of residential surveillance in which he was allowed to communicate with me but was heavily monitored and not allowed to leave China. In our conversations, it also became clear that he had been subjected to torture.
My father was kidnapped again in January 2018, this time while travelling on a train with Swedish diplomats. Since then, he has again been held incommunicado. In February this year, he was sentenced in secret to 10 years in prison for illegally providing intelligence overseas. It has not been explained what specific acts this refers to. Chinese authorities further claim that my father has renounced his Swedish citizenship and applied to have his Chinese citizenship reinstated. As such, the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs has been refused information even on his health status. I have not spoken to him since early 2018 and have no way of knowing if he is still alive.
My father's case is increasingly described as a precursor to China's repression of freedoms in Hong Kong through its recent national security law. Though in violation of Hong Kong's own Basic Law, as well as international law, this legislation is the Chinese government's way of ensuring that what happened to my father can now legally be done to anyone in Hong Kong.
Article 38 of the law indicates that it is intended to extend beyond the territory of Hong Kong to apply to anyone, anywhere. The national security law has institutionalized China's extraterritorial abduction of political dissidents. This suggests to me that while the efforts of countries like Canada and Sweden to respond to Beijing's human rights violations have been important, they sadly have not been enough.
Canada is home to a large Chinese and Hong Kong Chinese community, and I wonder how many of these people feel forced, like I do, to take extra security precautions daily in order to protect themselves from Chinese government harassment.
To honour its commitment to human rights then, Canada should make sure that its citizens and residents can safely express their opinions on China without having to fear harassment, intimidation or abduction. This is especially important, as Hong Kong activists are relocating to Canada for fear of their safety. Canada should also urgently move to protect Canadian citizens in Hong Kong whose health and safety was threatened by the Chinese ambassador last week. As we have seen in my father's case, China now claims the authority to unilaterally change foreign citizens' nationality, completely undermining the protection that foreign citizenship used to provide.
In taking these steps, Canada will set an important standard for other countries to follow and provide a basis for increased trans-national co-operation in holding Beijing accountable. To prevent what happened to my father from becoming the norm, the international community must act more swiftly and with more coordination than it hitherto has.
I therefore also want to call on Canada to work with Sweden and other countries by clearly and publicly demanding Beijing's adherence to international law by stating their refusal to co-operate with extraterritorial application of the national security law, as well as by demanding my father's release. Since condemnations have not been effective in the past, it is of paramount importance that demands also articulate consequences. I understand that reconsidering the relationship to China is not a decision to be taken lightly. However as extraterritorial abductions of political dissidents have become normalized, it ought to be a price that we are willing to pay.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you. I would welcome any questions that you may have.