- The Washington Times - Friday, April 20, 2001

The State Department yesterday warned Americans who have visited Taiwan or openly criticized the Chinese government that they face possible arrest by Chinese authorities if they set foot in China.
Though the warning was directed at all Americans, it said U.S. citizens and U.S. permanent residents of Chinese origin were especially at risk.
Two Americans of Chinese origin "are now being detained by Chinese authorities under suspicion of espionage or damaging Chinas national security, even though the Chinese government has not offered any evidence to substantiate these allegations," said the State Department announcement.
It said that even though the U.S. citizens had changed their names after naturalization or through marriage, they were identified and arrested by Chinese state security.
"The Department of State cautions Americans, especially Americans originally from China, that there may be a risk of being detained upon returning to China, if they have at any time engaged in activities or published writings critical of Chinese government policies," said the statement posted on the departments Internet site.
"In some cases, travel to Taiwan or involvement with Taiwan media organizations has apparently also been regarded as the equivalent of espionage," the statement said.
In addition to the two U.S. citizens currently under arrest, several more have been detained and questioned for up to four days before being released, said the announcement.
Another potential flash point in the tense relations between Washington and Beijing emerged yesterday when a spokesman for Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian said the president hopes to stop in the United States as part of a planned Latin American tour next month.
Speaking to reporters in Taipei yesterday, the spokesman refused to confirm or deny reports in the local press that Mr. Chen and his delegation have asked to stop in New York City on May 21 and to return from Latin America via Houston in early June, saying only that talks between Washington and Taipei are still under way.
Beijing, which considers Taiwan a renegade province, has aggressively protested past visits by Taipei officials to the United States. In 1995, a visit by President Lee Teng-hui to Cornell University sparked a confrontation that culminated the following year when China staged war games in the Taiwan Strait and the Clinton administration dispatched two naval battle groups to the area.
Mr. Chen made a brief stop in Los Angeles in August, but Taiwanese officials complained that the U.S. government, under pressure from Beijing, sharply limited his activities and meetings with U.S. political figures.
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said yesterday the Bush administration planned no changes on its handling of a possible Taiwanese presidential stopover.
"In terms of transits, the criteria we use are the same as weve always used: safety, comfort, convenience of the travelers. We dont have anything new to say on that," Mr. Boucher said.
He added that the department has not received a visa request from Mr. Lee, who is reportedly planning a return trip to Cornell next month.
Zhang Yuanyuan, spokesman for the Chinese Embassy here, harshly condemned Mr. Lee yesterday as a "troublemaker."
"China is firmly opposed to his transit to the United States because he will take advantage of the trip to propagate Taiwan independence and sow discord among the Chinese people," Mr. Zhang said.
No names were listed in yesterdays State Department travel warning, but the U.S. government has protested the Feb. 11 detention of Gao Zhan, an American University researcher and U.S. permanent resident. Mrs. Gao, who studied Chinese politics and society and visited Taiwan, is charged with spying. She is being held incommunicado.
Others detained include American Li Shaomin, a business professor in Hong Kong. Mr. Li disappeared Feb. 25 after going to China to see a friend and was reportedly picked up by security police. Wu Jianming was detained April 8 on suspicion of spying for Taiwan, the State Department said yesterday. Ngawang Choephel, a Tibetan musicologist from Middlebury College in Vermont, has been held for five years.
"I find it hard to understand why the United States would issue such a warning against travel to China," said the Chinese Embassys Mr. Zhang yesterday. He brushed aside the U.S. concerns over the arrests of American citizens and residents.
"The Chinese judiciary is independent and it is inappropriate for us civil servants to intervene in any way," he said. "The Chinese judiciary will determine if a person is guilty or not."
Meanwhile, the Chinese government demanded that the United States turn over Zhang Hongbao, leader of the banned Zhong Gong sect.
On Tuesday, Zhang Hongbao was released from detention into "immigration parole" 15 months after he arrived on U.S. soil illegally.
He is seeking political asylum.
Yesterday, the embassy spokesman, said Zhang Hongbao is "a criminal. Period."
He said that the Chinese government had presented the U.S. government with "three batches" of "irrefutable evidence" that Zhang Hongbao is a rapist and murderer, charges his followers call fabrications.
The Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy said in a statement Wednesday that Chinese authorities have embarked on a nationwide crackdown on meditation groups that has resulted in the closure of 185 meditation groups in the central province of Shanxi alone.
James Lilly, former ambassador to China and currently at the American Enterprise Institute, quoted a Chinese proverb yesterday saying that human and religious rights concerns are "firing an empty cannon" and must be handled separately from the increasingly complex trade and military aspects of the U.S.-China relationship.
"You have to get the dialogue going into the economic sector. Business is adversely affected by war, and the Chinese are businessmen even before they are warriors," Mr. Lilly said.
Mr. Lilly said that the trade deficit, U.S.-Taiwan relations and World Trade Organization issues need to be handled within the context of trade.
He said the recent downing of a U.S. surveillance plane was part of Chinas military "forward deployment and power projection" throughout the region, and it needs to be treated as such.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide