- The Washington Times - Friday, August 3, 2001

The Immigration and Naturalization Service would not say why it canceled U.S. citizenship ceremonies yesterday for Gao Zhan, the American University research scholar released a week earlier on probation after being convicted of spying in China.
"The INS had no naturalization ceremonies scheduled in Washington today," said spokeswoman Elaine Komis, who said she knew of no other explanation.
Sen. George F. Allen, Virginia Republican, had scheduled the ceremony for 1:30 p.m. at the Capitol, saying Mrs. Gao had satisfied all requirements, had been cleared by the FBI, had been found of "good character" by the INS, and needed only "to raise her hand" in allegiance to the United States.
But Wednesday evening, INS canceled the ceremony.
"We don't know the reason," said Matt Raymond, a spokesman for the senator.
"The senator asked for a rescheduled timeline and was given no indication" by INS when Mrs. Gao might be naturalized, Mr. Raymond said.
Mrs. Gao, who was imprisoned for 166 days before she was released on medical probation to be reunited with her husband and 5-year-old son, Andrew, in McLean, had been looking forward to improving on her "permanent citizen" status.
"Gao Zhan is disappointed in the delay but she is not worried. She understands the government agency process. Dr. Gao has met all the U.S. citizenship requirements, just like Donghua, and looks forward to becoming a U.S. citizen very soon," she and her husband, Xue Donghua, said in a statement yesterday.
The two have lived in the United States for 12 years. Naturalization requires five years' residency. The couple's son was born in the United States, automatically becoming a citizen. The three were arrested in Beijing on Feb. 11 after celebrating the Chinese New Year with the couple's parents. Mr. Xue and Andrew were released 26 days later.
The only apparent difference in the status of Mr. Xue and Mrs. Gao is that she has been convicted of a crime in a foreign country. On July 24, Mrs. Gao was convicted of espionage — passing scholarly papers about women's status and Taiwan — and sentenced to 10 years in prison. A couple of days later, she was released on medical probation.
On March 30, soon after his return from China, Mr. Xue was sworn in as a U.S. citizen in special ceremonies on Capitol Hill arranged by Rep. Frank R. Wolf, Virginia Republican representing the district where the family lives.
Mr. Raymond said "the senator and his staff had been led to believe there was no problem" in scheduling the citizenship ceremony . "They said anytime and anywhere."
INS canceled the ceremony after American University and Mr. Allen had publicly announced the time and place earlier Wednesday.
Yesterday, Miss Komis confirmed, "There are certain crimes that can bar one from naturalization," particularly "aggravated felonies and murder." She was unable to say if Mrs. Gao's conviction disqualified her from U.S. citizenship.

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