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Detained Chinese-American Scholar Honored - 2001-08-30

Chinese-born American scholar, Gao Zhan, officially has been welcomed home to American University in Washington. With the university's president, Benjamin Ladner, by her side, she walked to a gathering on campus Tuesday.

Mr. Ladner said, "There's something fitting about holding this brief, welcome home ceremony for Dr. Gao Zhan in front of our library. In all the hullaballoo and hundreds of cameras and interviews, she managed to whisper to me that she had an overdue library book and Could I please look into that because she'd been in detention for six months."

She had been detained by the Chinese government, tried and convicted of spying before her release in July.

The small, slim, Ms. Gao appears more determined than ever to carry on her research saying she will be on campus throughout the school year working with the university hierarchy. She said, "To help build a strong Asia studies program and through which to provide as comprehensive forum to discuss more serious issues about China."

She plans to discuss her ordeal and share how she persevered during her months of detainment - eating mostly cabbage.

With her at the ceremony was her husband, who worked tirelessly for her release, and her shy, young son, Andrew, who starts first grade next week. Ms. Gao said, "Again, from the very bottom of my heart, thank you, my A.U. [American University] family."

She made it clear to a reporter she intends to return to China at some point to see her family. She said, "When it becomes necessary to see my parents, who are in their seventies and not in very good health condition, I will fight for my right to go back to see my parents."

But for now, it's back to the academic life and getting re-accustomed to life in America.