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China Frees Imprisoned US Geologist

FILE - Xue Min, center, waits with daughter Guo Jie for sentencing at the trial of Xue's brother, Xue Feng, outside Beijing's No. 1 Intermediate People's Court, July 5, 2010. At right is Xue Feng's lawyer, Tong Wei.

China has freed an American geologist who spent more than eight years in prison on a conviction of procuring state secrets, a human rights group said.

The San Francisco-based Dui Hua Foundation said on Saturday that Xue Feng, 50, was deported to the United States immediately after his release on Friday. The human rights group group said Xue was reunited Friday evening with his family in Houston, a city in the southwestern U.S. state of Texas.

Xue, 50 and a Chinese-born U.S. citizen, was detained in November of 2007 after buying a database on China's oil industry while working for U.S. energy and engineering consulting firm IHS Inc. He was sentenced in 2010 on charges of illegally gathering information on oil and gas holdings of the China National Petroleum Corp., according to The Associated Press.

The Beijing No. 1 Intermediate People’s Court said Xue, who holds a doctorate from the University of Chicago, "endangered our country’s national security," the AP reported.

American diplomats had objected to his long prison sentence as unduly harsh.

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