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US Officials Protest China's Detention of American Professor - 2004-08-11


The United States is protesting China's treatment of a Chinese-born university professor who was detained for two weeks on espionage charges. U.S. embassy officials are calling last month's detention harsh and inappropriate.

The U.S. government says Wang Fei-ling was arrested in Shanghai on July 25 for alleged spying activities.

Mr. Wang is an associate professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. He was released August 8 and returned to the United States.

On Wednesday, a U.S. Embassy spokeswoman in Beijing said consular officers were alerted to Mr. Wang's disappearance only after his wife called, saying Mr. Wang had not returned to the United States as planned on July 29. She says consular staff had repeatedly tried to inquire about Mr. Wang's whereabouts, but were unsuccessful.

The embassy spokeswoman said the United States was only informed of the arrest on August 4.

The U.S. government plans to officially protest to the Chinese Foreign Ministry over the delayed notification, which the embassy says violates an agreement requiring notification of arrests within four days.

It also is condemning what it calls the "harsh and inappropriate" treatment of Mr. Wang. There are reports he was deprived of water and food for extended periods and was kept in solitary confinement for four days during his detention.

Mr. Wang's case is the latest in a number of arrests involving Chinese-born U.S. citizens or U.S. permanent residents.

Last month, China arrested U.S. citizen David Wei Dong and said it would put him on trial on charges of spying for Taiwan. In 2001, four Chinese-born academics based in the United States were arrested for similar charges.

Nicholas Bequelin, research director of Human Rights in China in Hong Kong, says the arrests of Chinese-born U.S. citizens or permanent residents have been a long-standing pattern.

"The Chinese government is very concerned about criticism and scrutiny of its policies by ethnic Chinese or those born overseas to Chinese parents," he said. "The authorities are always much more sensitive to criticism coming from ethnic Chinese than from, say, foreigners."

Mr. Bequelin says Chinese laws on state secrets are often vague and could put a researcher at risk of arrest at any time.

Some foreigners arrested in the past were convicted and immediately expelled from China.

Also Wednesday, a court in China's Hubei Province rejected an appeal lodged by Du Daobin, convicted of subversion for posting political statements on the Internet. He originally was sentenced to three years in prison, but that was commuted to four years probation.