- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 24, 2001

It may be a short espionage trial today, even by Chinese standards, and U.S. and American University officials were hoping last night that Gao Zhan, 40, will be able to hop on the next flight from Beijing to her home in McLean.
"We're hopeful she will be returned under a humanitarian clause," said Matt Raymond, spokesman for Sen. George F. Allen, Virginia Republican, who has sponsored legislation that would change Mrs. Gao's status from "permanent resident" to U.S. citizen.
Sen. Allen's staff has been in contact every day with Mrs. Gao's husband, Xue Donghua, also 40, who was detained in Beijing with their 5-year-old son, Andrew, on Feb. 11 as they completed a visit with families during the Chinese New Year celebrations.
Andrew, who was held separately, and Mr. Xue were released 26 days later. Mrs. Gao, an American University sociology research fellow who has traveled extensively and written numerous treatises about Chinese women and Taiwan, has been confined and accused of "accepting money from a foreign intelligence agency and participating in espionage activities."
"I only hope that they let her go," Mr. Xue said yesterday. "As a husband, I just need her to come home. Andrew needs his mother."
Mr. Xue said he talked with his wife's lawyer, Bai Xuebiao, in Beijing yesterday and was told that she would plead "not guilty." However, under Chinese legal procedures dating back 4,000 years, conviction of Mrs. Gao is a foregone conclusion.
The public is not permitted to attend trials. In less publicized cases, a prosecutor, which is like a judge in America, picks a panel of residents. The government, like prosecutors in America, presents the evidence. The defense attorney typically apologizes for the defendant. Then the panel convicts.
All that remains is sentencing, which could be from three years to life imprisonment. However, Mrs. Gao has an irregular heartbeat that has worsened under stress. She could be released under medical parole and deported, Mr. Xue said.
Mrs. Gao's case is similar and may be connected to that of Li Shaomin, also a college professor who was arrested Feb. 28, charged and convicted after a four-hour trial July 14. His sentence was deportation.
But yesterday, neither the U.S. Department of State nor the Chinese Embassy in Washington, D.C., could tell where Mr. Li was — whether he was still in Shenzhen, where he was living and working, or if he returned to the United States.
One difference between the two cases is that Mr. Li, also born in China, is a naturalized U.S. citizen. Mr. Allen and Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee, Texas Democrat, introduced bills after Mrs. Gao's arrest to bestow U.S. citizenship on her. Mr. Xue was naturalized after he and Andrew, born in the United States, returned from China.
Mr. Bai said the evidence against Mrs. Gao apparently involves photocopied books and articles about Taiwan that she presented to Mr. Li. Beijing regards the island of Taiwan as a renegade province.
"Our defense will be that evidence is insufficient," Mr. Bai said. "We feel the prosecutors have not provided enough evidence to prove she committed espionage.
"The handling of Li Shaomin reflected how seriously the court regarded the case. It wasn't extremely serious," Mr. Bai said.
There is speculation that the treatment of Mrs. Gao and Mr. Li is calculated to give China leverage in negotiations with the United States. On Saturday, Colin L. Powell is to arrive in Beijing for the first time as secretary of state.
Mr. Allen's staff has been in daily contact with Mr. Xue, and has checked regularly with the State Department about the case. Mr. Allen met with newly appointed Ambassador Clark Randt before he went to Beijing yesterday and was assured that Mr. Randt would seek a quick and safe return for Mrs. Gao.
American University President Benjamin Ladner took time from his Asian travels to appeal unsuccessfully in Beijing for release in April. He was unable to see her. Mrs. Gao's only contact with outsiders since Feb. 11 has been two meetings with her attorneys. Yesterday's meeting lasted two hours.

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