Archive for Thursday, July 19, 2001

U.S.-based scholar facing trial in China

July 19, 2001

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— China has indicted a U.S.-based scholar accused of espionage and will try her, probably soon after a visit by U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, her family's lawyer said Wednesday.

Gao Zhan is expected to be tried by the same Beijing court that on Saturday convicted an American business professor, Li Shaomin, of spying for Taiwan and ordered him deported.

The two cases and the detentions in China of other scholars and businesspeople with U.S. citizenship or links to the United States have compounded recent strains in relations between Beijing and Washington. The arrests also have caused unease among scholars who regularly travel to China for research.

Gao's trial threatens to cast a cloud over Powell's visit, expected at the end of the month. The visit, Powell's first to China as secretary of state, comes as Washington and Beijing are trying to patch up ties shaken by the collision in April of an American spy plane and a Chinese fighter jet.

A three-judge panel at Beijing's No. 1 Intermediate People's Court is expected to try Gao behind closed doors. The trial will most likely take place in the week of July 30 and "probably right after Secretary Powell's departure from Beijing," said Jerome A. Cohen, a New York University law professor who is representing Gao's family in the United States.

"It will come soon," Cohen said.

State Department spokesman Phillip Reeker said the U.S. is urging a prompt resolution to Gao's case.

"Our goal is to see that she's able to be reunited with her family, and that's what we're calling on the Chinese to do," Reeker said.

Human Rights in China, an organization that has been supporting Gao, said it hoped she was treated like Li.

"Our hope is that if she is convicted she will be ordered deported, as was Li Shaomin," said Xiao Qiang, executive director of the agency.

Gao works at American University in Washington and has permanent U.S. resident status. She was detained Feb. 11 at Beijing's airport during a family trip to China.

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