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China Reportedly Arrests U.S.-Based Scholar

April 05, 2001|From Times Wire Services

BEIJING — A U.S.-based political scientist whose detention is causing a diplomatic uproar in Washington has been formally arrested on spying charges, a human rights group said Wednesday.

The arrest of Gao Zhan appeared certain to add to already major strains on relations with Washington amid a standoff over a U.S. Navy plane and its crew being held on a Chinese island.

In Washington, White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer described Gao's situation as "an ongoing, separate matter" not linked to the dispute over the U.S. aircraft, which has been grounded on Hainan island since colliding with a Chinese fighter jet Sunday.

"We continue to urge that [Gao] be released on humanitarian grounds so she can be reunited with her family in the United States," Fleischer said.

Gao's arrest sheet, given to her parents Tuesday by security agents, accuses her of "accepting money from a foreign intelligence agency and participating in espionage activities in China," the New York-based group Human Rights in China said.

Such a charge almost guarantees Gao's conviction and a long sentence. China tries such security cases in secret and allows little chance for defendants to respond to the charges.

Gao, a researcher at American University in Washington, was picked up at the Beijing airport Feb. 11 at the end of a family vacation. Her husband, Xue Donghua, and their 5-year-old son, Andrew, were released 26 days later and returned to the United States.

U.S. officials, including Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, sharply criticized China for holding Gao's son, an American citizen, and failing to notify the U.S. Embassy of his detention, as required by treaty.

They also have appealed for Gao's release on humanitarian grounds.

Xue has denied that his wife is a spy.

She has visited rival Taiwan, which China regards as a renegade province, but Xue said the trip was for purely academic reasons.

In a separate case, Hong Kong-based American professor Li Shaomin was arrested recently by security forces in China.

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