- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 5, 2001

BEIJING A U.S.-based political scientist whose detention caused a diplomatic uproar with Washington has been formally charged with spying, according to a human rights group.
The formal arrest of Gao Zhan appeared certain to add to already major strains on relations with Washington amid a standoff over a U.S. Navy plane and its crew being held on a Chinese island.
In Washington, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer yesterday described Mrs. Gao's situation as "an ongoing, separate matter" not linked to the dispute over the U.S. plane, which has been grounded on Hainan Island since colliding with a Chinese jet on Sunday.
"We continue to urge that [Mrs. Gao] be released on humanitarian grounds so she can be reunited with her family in the United States," Mr. Fleischer said.
Mrs. Gao's arrest sheet, given to her parents Tuesday by security agents, accuses her of "accepting money from a foreign intelligence agency and participating in espionage activities in China," New York-based Human Rights in China said.
Such a charge almost guarantees Mrs. Gao's conviction and a long sentence. China tries such security cases in secret and allows little chance for defendants to respond to the charges.
Mrs. Gao, an unpaid researcher at American University in Washington, was picked up at the Beijing airport Feb. 11 at the end of a family vacation. Her husband and 5-year-old son were held for 26 days before being allowed to return to the United States.
U.S. officials, including Secretary of State Colin Powell, sharply criticized China for holding Mrs. Gao's son, an American citizen, and failing to notify the U.S. Embassy of his detention as required by treaty. They also have appealed for Mrs. Gao's release on humanitarian grounds.
Mrs. Gao's husband, Xue Donghua, has denied that his wife was a spy. She has visited rival Taiwan, which China regards as a renegade province, but Mr. Xue said the trip was purely academic.
Officials of the State Security Ministry refused to comment on the report.
The detentions of two other scholars with U.S. ties have been revealed in the past week one of them an American citizen.
Mrs. Gao's arrest is "directly tied to the escalating tensions between the United States and China," said Liu Qing, president of Human Rights in China.
Mr. Liu, in a written statement, said Mrs. Gao and other detainees were being used as bargaining chips by China to advance political and economic interests.
Mr. Xue, quoted in Mr. Liu's statement, echoed those sentiments. He noted that Mrs. Gao went from being under investigation to being formally arrested just after the surveillance plane incident.
"My wife … has nothing to with the intelligence activities of any government. There is no reason for her to become a victim of U.S.-China relations," Mr. Xue said.

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