- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 14, 2001

Two months after the return of the crew of the U.S. Navy surveillance plane, one American still remains hostage to the Chinese government at an unidentified location around Beijing. Jesse Jackson hasnt seen the PR advantage in trying to negotiate his freedom, and the administration has remained silent about its commitment to try to free him.
No, he is not a U.S. serviceman, but Li Shaomin served the United States for years before he was detained by the Chinese government in February while crossing the border from Hong Kong to China. Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey, the home state of Mr. Li, introduced a resolution in the House on Friday which would call on the Chinese government to unconditionally release Mr. Li and other detained scholars unjustly targeted for their work on Chinese-Taiwan relations. This is a good place to start to try to win the release of the Chinese-American professor, but the Chinese government is not likely to bend without a strong message from the Bush administration pushing for Mr. Lis release. "Acquiescence by silence only means that they get a long prison sentence, because this repression is one of the most dangerous ones weve seen in the last 10 years," Mr. Smith said in an interview.
A Princeton grad and post-doctorate fellow at Harvard University, Mr. Li worked for AT&T; in Berkeley Heights, N.J. He has called the United States home since he moved from Beijing in 1982. Though he did not become a naturalized citizen until 1995, he has raised his daughter here, and his family considers New Jersey home.
"Its the ultimate freedom to become a U.S. citizen," his wife, Liu Yingli told this page in an interview. "We always knew and wished we could be in the free world." So Mrs. Li followed her husband to the United States from Beijing in 1985. Though Mr. Li is a Chinese-born American scholar, his work does not exactly fit the profile of what one would expect from someone "spying" for Taiwan, which is what the Chinese government has charged him with. He is a demographer, studying population growth and market trends. He got a job as a professor of marketing at the City University of Hong Kong in 1996, and his wife has been teaching there since 1998.
Mr. Lis one mistake was to agree to meet a friend for dinner the night of Feb. 25. "He left Sunday night and he never came back," his wife said, trying to control her emotions. For the first week, she tried to keep it from their 9-year-old daughter, telling the girl that he was on business. But at one point, Diana had to know the truth, and she, too, is now trying to lobby President Bush on his behalf.
Mr. Li regularly visited Shenzhen, a city just 30 minutes from Hong Kong, and was detained by Chinese authorities as he arrived in the train station. The U.S. consular office has been allowed four visits to see him at specified meeting places near Beijing, but Mr. Li has not been allowed to see his lawyer or his family since his detention. Even more disturbing, he was held without being charged for almost three months.
Despite the fact that this violates Chinese law and Chinese-U.S. agreements, the Bush administration has done nothing. The New Jersey congressional delegation has written Mr. Bush, asking for him to raise the issue at the highest diplomatic level. Last Friday, the office of Rep. Bill Pascrell finally received an acknowledgement signed by autopen that the letter had been received.
When U.S. servicemen were involved in the Navy spy plane incident, the U.S. government negotiated their release in 12 days. The administration is now practicing a double standard by its silence. Mr. Li, a U.S. citizen, deserves U.S. government protection. Having silenced the budding Chinese democracy movement, Beijing is now turning its attention to American scholars with any connection to Taiwan as a way of sending an ominous message. Its a message the White House needs to hear loud and clear.

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