- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 24, 2001

More than five months after her deetention and four days before Secretary of State Colin Powell's visit to China, American University scholar Gao Zhan stands trial today on espionage charges in China. That is, if you can call it a trial.

Requests by her American lawyer, her husband, and a U.S. diplomat to attend the trial have been met with silence. She was held without charges for 40 days, and her Chinese lawyer said he was only notified Friday of the trial. Her lawyers say she gave photocopied materials of books and magazines on Taiwan-China relations to Li Shaomin, another scholar convicted July 14 of espionage and sentenced to expulsion. In America, exchanging such literature would be called emowering the freedom of information and the press; to the Chinese it is dangerous spying.

Because she is not a U.S. citizen, but merely a resident, she may not be given the option of expulsion as Mr. Li was. But even Mr. Li, a U.S. citizen since 1995, has not yet been released, despite the fact that orders for his expulsion were made 10 days ago. His family has not been given any information as to when or where he will be relased, and were not even allowed to know where he was being held after he disappeared the night of Feb. 25. Such is the state of the Chinese judicial system.

Mr. Powell rightly made clear yesterday that he hopes Mrs. Gao will be released by the time he arrives in China Saturday, but that China cannot stop here. Its treatment of Falun Gong practitioners and repression of religious freedom needds to change for China to become a respected player in the international community. Otherwise, China's upcoming membership in the World Trade Organization and its hosting of the 2008 Olympics will merely be superficial trappings of international credibility.

China has the chance today at Mrs. Gao's trial to prove it is more than just miming democratic reform. It also has the opportunity to follow its own edict regarding Mr. Li by allowing him to be reunited with his daughter and wife immediately. Still, these two American scholars are but symbols of China's much broader human rights abuses. Until China has shown it is methodically making reforms, the Bush administration must make clear that China is choosing to weaken its partnership with the United States and the international community.

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