- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 7, 2001

Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage urged the Chinese government yesterday to resolve the cases of two detained U.S. scholars "favorably and quickly" while acknowledging that their trials will not begin for another week.
The State Department had reported Thursday that the trials against U.S. citizen Li Shaomin and U.S. resident Gao Zhan, both accused of spying for Taiwan, were under way.
"Our information this morning … was that the trial would begin in approximately a week," Mr. Armitage said yesterday in an attempt to clear up confusion over the fate of the two scholars, who had disappeared in February while visiting China.
"It is our view that this is hurting [China] in the international arena, and we hope that they want to resolve it favorably and quickly," Mr. Armitage said.
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the mix-up was caused by a poor translation of Chinese into English.
The move to put Mrs. Gao, a researcher at American University, and Mr. Li, a Hong Kong-based business professor, on trial prompted optimism that both cases would be settled and the two would return to their families shortly.
"The possibility entirely exists because after half a year of turbulence, both sides now are prepared to come up with ways to improve relations," said Zhang Yebai of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing.
China this week returned the U.S. EP-3E surveillance plane that made a forced landing after a midair collision in April. The two nations continued haggling over the plane yesterday, with China demanding a $1 million fee for plane-sitting services and the United States refusing to pay.
Nevertheless, the spat appeared minor compared with tensions in April when China detained the plane's 24-member crew for 11 days.
President Bush held a lengthy telephone conversation with Chinese President Jiang Zemin on Thursday, which included an appeal for the two scholars' return and a range of other issues affecting Sino-U.S. ties.
Mr. Bush plans to visit China later this year.
Secratary of State Colin Powell also plans to visit China during a five nation swing through the region beginning later this month.
China, which is seeking to host the 2008 Summer Olympics, is keen to avoid international anger just a week before the July 13 vote by the International Olympic Committee to select the host.
The European Parliament in a resolution passed yesterday called China's bid for the Olympics "inappropriate," given its "disastrous record on human rights."
The resolution, however, was only symbolic since the body has no say in the selection of the Olympics venue.
The U.S. government has said it will remain neutral in the vote.
The trial of the two scholars will "add fuel to the opponents of President Bush's effort to … develop a closer relationship" with China, said Bruce Fein, an international law scholar.
He said that the two will be detained for a decent interval, probably as long as six months. Both were arrested in February.
A spokesman for Sen. George F. Allen, Virginia Republican, said he was "more hopeful than optimistic" that the two would be released.
Mr. Allen had sponsored legislation to grant immediate citizenship to Mrs. Gao.
Mrs. Gao, a researcher who studied women's issues in Taiwan and China, was arrested in February while returning home to the United States, where she was slated to be sworn in as an American citizen.

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