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Beijing Releases American Consultant

Fong Fuming, 68, who was serving a five-year prison sentence, is returning to the U.S.

October 28, 2003|From Associated Press

BEIJING — Citing his "repentant behavior," China on Monday deported to the United States a Chinese-born American citizen convicted of obtaining state secrets, more than a year before his prison sentence expired.

The U.S. government had pressed for the release of Fong Fuming, 68, a business consultant from West Orange, N.J., in a list given to China of 13 prisoners identified as priority cases. Officials as senior as U.S. Secretary of State Colin L. Powell brought up his case with Chinese leaders.

In the past, Beijing has freed Americans or U.S. residents to coincide with visits from top-level Washington politicians. One source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said a U.S. official who deals with human rights arrived in Beijing on Monday.

The ailing Fong "has had his sentence reduced and was deported from China," the official New China News Agency reported Monday night. It referred to Fong's "repentant behavior in jail" but didn't give details.

"It's a happy surprise," said one of Fong's two sons, reached by telephone in New Jersey. He spoke on condition that his name not be used. "We're just so overjoyed that he's coming home."

Fong, an electrical engineer and onetime power official in China, long denied charges that he illegally obtained documents containing state secrets and bribed government officials. He was sentenced to five years in March 2002 after being detained for nearly two years, and was given credit for time served.

Though Fong apparently remains ill, his son said the State Department told him that Fong "appeared to be OK" when he left Beijing.

Fong's case was unusual in that, unlike many others in China involving American citizens or permanent residents, it hinged not upon political accusations but upon business practices. Fong had been accused of what amounted to industrial espionage and bribery.

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