China has sentenced a U.S. geologist to eight years in prison under a state secrets law that is raising questions about the limits of business activity in China.
The U.S. embassy in Beijing said it was "dismayed" by Monday's sentence, which included a $30,000 fine. It called for Xue Feng's immediate release and deportation to the United States. Xue, a 44-year-old naturalized American, has been held since late 2007 after negotiating the sale of an oil industry database to his employer at the time, U.S.-based consultant firm IHS.
Industry and rights groups say the material in the database was openly available and that the law used to prosecute Xue is vague. Three Chinese colleagues were sentenced with Xue, who obtained the database containing detailed information on the operations of state-owned China National Petroleum Corporation.
Foreign companies have long complained that Chinese state secrets laws are too broad. Draft regulations distributed in April would specifically protect the business secrets of major state companies.
Xue has complained of being tortured while in detention, saying he was burned on the arms with lit cigarettes.
Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.