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China Finds American Guilty of Stealing State Secrets - 2002-03-21

A Chinese court Thursday found an American electrical engineer guilty of stealing state secrets and sentenced him to five years in prison. Fong Fuming is one of several U.S. citizens arrested in recent years under China's vague security laws.

Fong Fuming was convicted of paying tens of thousands of dollars in bribes on behalf of his employer to illegally obtain information about China's electric power industry. He was cleared on charges of obtaining state secrets on behalf of a foreign entity and individual bribery. Fong is a former employee of China's power industry, and was advising foreign firms on power projects in China at the time of his arrest in February 2000.

A U.S. Embassy statement says Fong's five-year sentence will be reduced by the two years since he has already spent time in jail awaiting trial. It also says Fong will be deported when his jail term ends.

Fong's lawyer, Jerome Cohen, told VOA he will quickly ask the court to release his client, who is in his late 60s. "[We will]apply for his release on medical parole because of his frail physical condition, declining health and his age. And we're hoping that that will be granted. And we have to make some decisions about whether or not to appeal," Mr. Cohen said.

During the trial, Fong's lawyers argued that the Chinese courts violated their own regulations with long delays and other procedural problems. Fong's family says he was mistreated by guards, who deprived him of his eye glasses and hearing aid. The U.S. Government complained that Fong was not treated according to international standards during the case. But Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhang Qiyue says it is unfair to criticize China's court system.

Ms. Zhang told reporters that "China is a nation ruled by law and decides such cases according to law."

Fong is one of half a dozen U.S. citizens and residents to run afoul of China's national security laws recently. The trials have put a strain on relations between Washington and Beijing.