- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 8, 2001

If theres anything the United States has learned about Chinese government officials over the past months as they have taken hostage academics with U.S. ties and 24 U.S. servicemen, it is that they are poor liars. Take the case of Gao Zhan, a researcher for American University, who was officially charged with espionage this week by the Chinese government.
According to her husbands account, Mrs. Gao, her husband and son were accosted by 15 secret police as they were waiting in line to check in at the Beijing airport Feb. 11 after a vacation there to celebrate the Chinese New Year. They were taken away in separate cars, and the husband and son were then held for 26 days. Both President Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell pressed the Chinese government on why it did not inform the U.S. government within four days of the detention of the 5-year old son, Andrew, as is required by consular agreement.
Chinese officials deny knowing he was a U.S. citizen, though they would have had to take his passport at the time they kidnapped him at the airport. They deny detaining him, though they would not allow him to have contact with his parents or grandparents for almost a month. Besides, they say, he was well-taken-care-of in a "kindergarten," a place which his father said has changed the boy from an open and friendly child to one afraid to leave his fathers bed at night.
The Chinese government claims that Mrs. Gao was "accepting money from a foreign intelligence agency and participating in espionage activities in China," according to New York-based Human Rights in China. A Taiwanese foundation was implied, the human rights groups spokesman Johanna Ransmeier told this page. The Bush administration denies Mrs. Gao, who had been doing research on Taiwan and womens issues, was a spy for the United States.
Her case is only the most recent in a string of detentions of Chinese scholars who are U.S. residents or citizens. In 1999, they accused another scholar, Song Yongyi, of Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pa., of stealing state secrets and sending them out of China. After his release over six months later, it became clear the charges were totally false. On Feb. 25 another American, professor Li Shaomin, was also detained north of Hong Kong, and he has been held since.
The United States has taken appropriate action: Rep. Frank Wolf, who considers Mrs. Gaos family his constituents, was behind a push to make her husband, Xue Donghua, a citizen last Friday. Now Sen. George Allen has introduced a bill which would allow Mrs. Gao to become a citizen without being there in Washington in person to swear the oath. A similar measure was introduced by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, Democrat from Texas on Thursday. The State Department has also made 12 formal requests for her return, Mr. Allens office said Thursday, but still, no one outside of China has been able to speak with her since Feb. 11.
The Chinese government has shown itself unwilling to respond to diplomatic efforts made by the administration and Congress, and it continues with the cover-up and abuse of justice. Mrs. Gao, a known critic of Chinas human rights record, is just another in a string of academics the Chinese government is choosing to silence. The United States should use its considerable leverage for her return, and for the betterment of Chinese democracy.


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