- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 26, 2001

In four and a half hours they tried, convicted and sentenced him an American marketing professor who had pleaded not guilty, who had been held without charges for almost three months, and who had not been allowed to see his family. Nor had Li Shaomin been able to communicate with his lawyer until the week of the trial. The Chinese-born U.S. citizen, held by Chinese authorities at an undisclosed location around Beijing for almost five months, was convicted July 14 of spying for Taiwan and ordered expelled. For his wife, Liu Yingli, and daughter Diana, his sudden disappearance on the evening of Feb. 25 and ensuing absence has been heart-rending. For his many friends, these months have highlighted China's egregious human rights record. But yesterday he was flown to San Francisco, where he was greeted by his family.
"He's coming home. That's all I needed to hear," his wife told this page with great excitement after she had heard the news that her husband was to be expelled. But as for the future? "I'm just waiting … so I cannot plan anything," she said. "We all know he's not a spy; that he's not guilty … I don't care about that part, as long as he comes home."
Defining home will be a harder task for the family of three. Diana, age 9, was born and raised in New Jersey, where Mr. Li worked for AT&T.; English is her first language. But Mr. Li has worked as a professor in Hong Kong since 1996, and Mrs. Li has worked there since 1998. For Mr. Li, the focus of the next months will likely be recuperating from the horrors of Beijing's prison system, infamous for its use of torture and inhumane treatment of its prisoners. But Mr. Li leaves behind five other scholars with ties to the United States, four of whom have been charged with spying for Taiwan. Gao Zhan, a researcher for American University and resident of McLean, Va., was sentenced Tuesday to 10 years in prison, as was another U.S. resident, Qin Guangguang. Secretary of State Colin Powell was working yesterday to obtain their release during a conversation with his counterpart on the sidelines of a regional meeting in Hanoi, Vietnam, and U.S. officials said they believed the two would be granted parole and be deported. All told, 29 Americans are still being held in Chinese prisons.
The conviction and sentencing of Mr. Li occurred the day after the International Olympics Committee closed its eyes to Beijing's human rights record and awarded China the 2008 Summer Games. With the inherent message that the brutality of China's communist government is legitimate, another point of leverage has been lost for the Bush administration, and the other Americans that Mr. Shaomin will leave behind in China's prisons could easily be forgotten. As Mr. Powell visits China on Saturday, he must bear the message that, as much as Mr. Li's homecoming will be celebrated, the release of one man is not the consummation of what it means for China to be a democratically reformed society. Mr. Li's ordeal stands as testimony to that.

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