Chinese officials released a Chinese-born American writer from prison Friday. He had been charged with spying for Taiwan, and held in jail since his arrest last April. Sending the scholar back to the United States removes an irritant in relations between Beijing and Washington just before President Bush is due to visit China.
A spokesman for the U.S. Embassy says Wu Jianmin was released from prison in southern China and quickly boarded a plane bound for the United States.
The official said, quote, "We are pleased that Mr. Wu has been released and is returning to the United States to be reunited with his family." Mr. Wu is said to be in apparent good health.
U.S. officials said they did not know if China dropped the charges against Mr. Wu, or if he had been tried and expelled, as was the case with other scholars with U.S. links earlier this year.
The Embassy spokesman said he did not know if the release was timed to improve relations between Beijing and Washington as China gets ready to host President Bush on a visit to Shanghai in a few weeks.
In the past, high profile releases preceded visits by high-ranking American visitors.
Mr. Wu was accused of accepting money from spy agencies on Taiwan to gather information about mainland China. Chinese officials have said they have strong evidence, and that Mr. Wu confessed to the allegations against him.
Mr. Wu has been linked to publication of the Tiananmen Papers, a book claiming to give an inside view of decisions by top Chinese leaders leading up to the deadly crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in Beijing in 1989.