PHILADELPHIA — A college librarian held in China for nearly six months on charges of smuggling state secrets returned Saturday to the United States.
"During the past 30 years, I never cried, but last night I cried all night," said Song Yongyi, looking tired but smiling broadly as he arrived at Philadelphia International Airport.
Song was detained in August and charged under China's vague secrets law. He had been collecting newspapers and documents concerning the Cultural Revolution, the period from 1966 to 1976 when Mao Tse-tung unleashed a wave of violence against opponents and a million people were killed.
Song, who is from Shanghai, spent five years in prison during that time, accused of being a "counterrevolutionary."
He moved to the United States in 1989, earned master's degrees in Chinese literature and library science and has worked at Dickinson College since 1997.
He has written articles and a book in Chinese on the Cultural Revolution.
Song received the unexpected news that he was being released on Friday.
"I am feeling very tired because during the last 36 hours I never got sleep," Song said before heading home to Carlisle, 110 miles west of Philadelphia.
He praised his wife, Helen Yao, for helping organize a campaign among academics for his release.
More than 100 China scholars in the United States and elsewhere petitioned Chinese President Jiang Zemin, saying Song was engaged in normal academic work, not espionage.