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China Faces Pressure to Release Accused US Spy - 2002-02-06

The U.S. government is pressing China to release an American electrical engineer accused of bribery and espionage. The plea to release the sick, elderly American citizen comes just weeks before a visit to Beijing by President Bush. Fong Fuming's lawyer has said the case is a disgrace to China.

U.S. Ambassador Clark Randt sent a letter to China's Foreign Ministry complaining about what he called poor treatment and protracted detention of 67-year old Fong Fuming.

The Chinese-born U.S. citizen is accused of offering thousands of dollars in bribes and stealing state secrets. Mr. Fong has strongly denied the charges.

Mr. Fong once worked in China's electric power industry, but was working for foreign firms at the time of his alleged crime.

Chinese officials have kept him in jail for nearly two years. He has had two brief court hearings but his trial has never been completed.

His lawyer, Jerome Cohen, says Chinese officials seem ready to keep Mr. Fong in jail "forever" without any kind of resolution to the case. Mr. Cohen told VOA that Chinese authorities are violating rules that require prompt trials for suspects.

"We've been told the court is simply helpless, they can't make a decision yet because there is some split among the judges about the merits of the prosecution case, and now the case has been handed up to the leadership," he said.

Attorney Cohen has said this case shows that China's courts lack the political independence needed to guarantee impartial justice. He said justice is urgent in this case, because Mr. Fong's health is deteriorating. Mr. Fong's family says he suffers from chest pains, a spinal problem and high blood pressure. They said his jailers often deny him use of his glasses and hearing aid.

Chinese officials offered no immediate comment on the story.

Mr. Fong's attorney and family have said they hope that President Bush's visit to Beijing later this month will help set the stage for Mr. Fong's release as a good will gesture.