Members of Congress have sharply criticized China for sentencing a U.S. based political dissident, Yang Jianli, to five years in prison on charges including espionage. Lawmakers on Capitol Hill call the sentence, coming after two years of detention for Mr. Yang, unjustified and urged Beijing to release him. Mr. Jianli went to China two years ago.
News of the jail sentence caught some lawmakers who have worked for his release for the past two years by surprise.
At a hastily-arranged news conference, several appeared with his wife, Christina Fu, to condemn the decision by the Chinese court.
Republican Congressman Christopher Cox is chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security. He said that the court verdict makes it difficult to sustain a constructive dialogue with Beijing.
?I don't know whether the PRC government believes that this was an auspicious time for them to announce the verdict because America's attentions were wholly concentrated elsewhere,? hes said. ?But the PRC apparatus is wrong to believe it can quiet international outrage on this matter by simply issuing a verdict and hiding Dr. Yang away.?
Last year, the House and Senate both passed resolutions calling for Mr. Yang's release. In a recent letter to Chinese President Hu Jintao, lawmakers called his detention "extraordinarily inhumane"
The government in Beijing called these and other protests "interference in the judicial process of China."
However, Jared Genser, Mr. Yang's U.S. attorney, said that the Chinese government knows the case against him was weak, particularly the charge of espionage.
?Putting all these legal issues aside, we know quite clearly why Yang Jianli is in prison today,? he added. ?He is in prison because he has strongly expressed his views about bringing peace and democracy to China. And that, in actuality, is his sole offense.?
Congressman Barney Frank called the sentence "excessive" and had this message for Beijing. ?I do not think they [China's government] understand what harm they are doing to their desire to be accepted as a leading nation among other nations, by this relentless and unjustified persecution of this brave, principled man,? he stated.
Mr. Yang's wife, Christina Fu, said that she was "sad beyond words" at news of her husband's jail sentence, but will continue to stand by him.
?Deep in my heart, I know that he is not a spy and he is innocent,? she said. ?All he wanted to do is to help his country and to help his fellow Chinese citizens.?
Christina Fu told reporters she was contacted by an official of the U.S. National Security Council (NSC) who said the Bush administration is very concerned and "deeply troubled" by the verdict and will continue efforts to obtain her husband's release. The Bush administration announced a few weeks ago its decision to sponsor a resolution in the U.N. Human Rights Commission criticizing China.