Beijing Hits U.S. Residents with Jail Terms

Article excerpt

Byline: Ben Barber and Arlo Wagner

China yesterday sentenced two U.S. residents, including American University scholar Gao Zhan, to 10 years in prison for espionage, roiling relations just two days before a visit to Beijing by Secretary of State Colin L. Powell.

Later, China deported an American business professor who had been convicted 10 days earlier, the Foreign Ministry announced early today.

Li Shaomin, a Chinese-born naturalized American citizen was expelled to the United States, the ministry said in a brief written statement.

The Associated Press, quoting a U.S. official in Beijing, reported that Mr. Li was being flown to San Francisco.

Mr. Li's expulsion had been expected since he had been ordered out of the country following his July 14 conviction.

However, the sentencing of Mrs. Gao and a second U.S. based academic, Qin Guangguang, to lengthy prison terms came as a double blow to U.S.-China relations. It came one a day before Mr. Powell was to meet Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan in Hanoi before traveling on to Beijing.

"We are dismayed by the outcome," said a spokesman for Mr. Powell, who is to attend a meeting today of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. "We are concerned by the lack of transparency."

U.S. officials were not permitted to attend the trial of Mrs. Gao, 39, whose husband and son live in the Washington area. They also were not permitted to attend the trial of a second scholar with U.S. permanent resident status, Qin Guangguang, who also received a 10-year sentence. Mr. Qin reportedly taught at U.S. universities and worked for a U.S. medical group in Beijing.

A third person, Chinese national Qu Wei, was sentenced to 13 years yesterday for providing documents to Mrs. Gao.

A series of recent arrests of U.S. based scholars has alarmed the academic world because their activities, such as collecting Chinese newspaper and magazine articles, had been considered routine.

A U.S. official who closely monitors China said it was believed within the U.S. government that one or both of the American residents sentenced yesterday would be released as a gesture of good will before or during Mr. Powell's visit.

"You have to admire China's cunning and deception" in arresting scholars such as Mrs. Gao and then releasing them as gestures of good will, said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

"These cases are a clever way to raise the bar. They say that if you even so much as Xerox unclassified documents on Taiwan, it's espionage. They are crushing the human rights movement, and anyone with U.S. connections who would try to discuss Taiwan policy can be jailed."

The Powell spokesman said the United States was disappointed at being barred from Mrs. Gao's trial, which lasted less than three hours. Members of Mrs. Gao's family were also refused permission to attend.

The spokesman said Mr. Powell would raise the case in his meeting with Mr. Tang in Hanoi today and with Chinese officials in Beijing the following day.

Supporters and lawyers for Mrs. Gao said at a Washington news conference that the evidence against her consisted of photocopies of publications and writings about Taiwan and women's rights. None was marked "classified," and all are readily available throughout the free world, said Sen. …