- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 26, 2001

China this morning freed American University researcher Gao Zhan, whose conviction and 10-year sentence earlier this week on charges of spying for Taiwan had placed her at the center of an angry dispute with the United States over the treatment of U.S.-based Chinese scholars.
Beijing yesterday also deported Li Shaomin and Qin Guangguang, two other U.S.-based researchers of Chinese ancestry accused of spying. Mrs. Gao and Mr. Qin, both convicted Tuesday, were granted medical paroles requested by their attorneys based on previous health problems.
U.S. officials traveling with Secretary of State Colin L. Powell in Vietnam confirmed that Mrs. Gao, who lives in Northern Virginia, has been placed on a Northwest Airlines flight in Beijing early this morning. She was flown to Detroit, but her husband, Falls Church computer programmer Xue Donghua, said his wife would be flying on to Washington Dulles International Airport early this afternoon.
Mr. Powell told reporters in Vietnam he was "very pleased" at the news of the scholars' release, which comes just two days before the secretary makes his first visit to Beijing. Amid furious backroom diplomacy, China's leaders apparently decided to remove a major irritant from the Sino-U.S. relationship before Mr. Powell's arrival.
"I think the [U.S.-China] relationship is on an upswing now that these irritations are behind us," Mr. Powell said yesterday, even before the releases were confirmed. "I know ent] is anxious to move forward."
A Chinese court sentenced Mrs. Gao and Mr. Qin, also a scholar, to 10 years in prison Tuesday after brief trials, during which they were found guilty of spying for Taiwan. Mr. Qin was not on the flight with Mrs. Gao and it was not clear last night when he would be allowed to leave the country.
The 39-year-old Mrs. Gao, a sociologist, had been held for more than five months after being detained in February with her husband and son by Chinese security forces. Her cause had been aggressively supported in Congress, where a bill had been introduced to expedite her citizenship application to increase the pressure on Beijing.
Mrs. Gao's flight from Beijing is scheduled to land in Detroit this morning. She was given a medical examination at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing before departing and pronounced fit to travel.
Mr. Xue, her husband, is traveling to Detroit with the couple's 5-year-old son, Andrew, to meet his wife. The two were released after nearly a month of detention and expelled from China while Mrs. Gao remained in jail.
Sen. George F. Allen, Virginia Republican and a champion of Mrs. Gao's cause in the Senate, said through a spokesman last night he was "ecstatic" at the news of her release. He credited President Bush, Mr. Powell and U.S. Ambassador to China Clark Randt with raising her case "at every opportunity."
Late yesterday, Mr. Li, a management professor at City University in Hong Kong, landed in San Francisco and was on his way to Washington.
"I'm very tired, I won't be able to answer any questions," he said upon arrival at the San Francisco airport on a flight from Tokyo. "I'm very glad to be home and to see my family. I would like to thank the U.S. government for its support and great help over these last five months."
In Washington, State Department deputy spokesman Philip Reeker said the United States had been "engaged intensively at every level in Washington, in Beijing and, indeed, in Hanoi" on behalf of the scholars. Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan and Mr. Powell met on the fringes of a gathering of foreign ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
In Beijing earlier yesterday, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman confirmed that Mrs. Gao and Mr. Qin, both permanent residents of the United States, had applied for release on medical grounds, raising hopes that their release was imminent.
Mr. Powell arrives in Beijing on Saturday as part of a nine-day tour of East Asia and Australia. He is scheduled to meet with Chinese President Jiang Zemin and other top officials and prepare for a visit by President Bush in the fall.
Diplomats on both sides have been working hard in the past couple of days to clear the cloud that the scholars' treatment has cast over Mr. Powell's visit as well as over U.S.-Chinese relations overall.
The relationship suffered a setback last spring, when an American surveillance plane was forced to make an emergency landing on China's Hainan island after an aerial collision with a Chinese fighter in April. The crew was held for 12 days and the plane wasn't returned until earlier this month.
Washington has also been concerned about China's continuing human rights abuses and other repressive policies.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told The Washington Times on Tuesday that the United States should deal with China from a position of military strength, and suggested that Beijing faces trouble ahead as it attempts to reconcile economic reform with political repression.
"I never believed that weakness was your first choice," he said. "I have always felt that weakness was provocative, that it kind of invites people to do things that they otherwise wouldn't think about doing."

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