- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 22, 2001

Beijing secret police detained and separated a family of U.S. residents visiting relatives in China last month, including a 5-year-old boy, and continue to hold the boy's mother despite U.S. demands to release her.
A human rights group is urging President Bush to press Beijing on the fate of the woman, American University researcher Gao Zhan, when he meets today with Chinese Vice Prime Minister Qian Qichen.
Mrs. Gao, a permanent U.S. resident awaiting naturalization, was detained Feb. 11, as were her husband and son, as the family attempted to board a plane in Beijing to return home to the United States. Authorities released the boy, Andrew Xue, and his father, Xue Donghua, on March 8.
Human Rights in China, a New York-based advocacy group, said security police held the boy, a U.S. citizen, for 26 days without notifying the U.S. Embassy as required by treaty, and refused requests to allow his parents or grandparents to visit him.
Mrs. Gao, a Chinese-born social scientist, is an unpaid faculty fellow at American University in Washington. Her husband works for Electronic Data Systems in Northern Virginia. A telephone call to Mr. Xue yesterday was not returned.
"Dr. Gao, her husband, Xue Donghua, and their son Andrew have committed no crime," Human Rights in China said in a letter to Mr. Bush. "They have been unjustly and arbitrarily detained in flagrant violation of China's own laws and international human rights standards. Gao remains in detention… . President Bush, we urge you to raise the case of Gao Zhan with Vice Premier Qian and to request her immediate release."
At the State Department, spokesman Richard Boucher said the U.S. Embassy in Beijing has demanded Mrs. Gao's release.
"We've asked them to release her immediately," he said.
Mr. Boucher said he didn't know whether Secretary of State Colin Powell would raise the issue during initial meetings with Mr. Qian, the highest Chinese official to visit Washington since Mr. Bush's election. Mr. Powell was scheduled to meet with Mr. Qian at a dinner last night.
"We'll have to see where we are," Mr. Boucher said. "Our embassy in Beijing has repeatedly raised with Chinese authorities … the issues of the detention of Ms. Gao… . I'm not aware that they've provided any significant explanation to us."
Mr. Boucher said the U.S. Privacy Act prevented him from discussing the boy's case.
"If a child was detained for 20 days without access to his parents, without the benefit of consular notification, that would be a real problem for us," he said, referring to protocol agreements that require the Chinese to notify the U.S. Embassy within four days if it is detaining a U.S. citizen. "But I can't talk about it in any specific terms because of the Privacy Act."
American University released a statement yesterday saying university President Benjamin Ladner has sent letters to top U.S. and Chinese officials about the matter.
"As an institution of higher learning, we are concerned if a scholar is being detained for any reason that might be related to legitimate inquiry or research," Mr. Ladner said. "We ask that both governments work to provide complete information surrounding this incident and that Dr. Gao be allowed to rejoin her family as soon as possible."
American University said Mrs. Gao has been a fellow since October 2000. Her research centers on women's issues and economic reforms in China. The school said she earned a doctorate in social science and a master's in sociology from Syracuse University.
Zhang Yuanyuan, a spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in Washington, said, "I have no idea" if authorities in Beijing are detaining Mrs. Gao. "I have no information on that," he said.
The London Daily Telegraph quoted the Chinese Foreign Ministry as saying, "Chinese citizen Gao Zhan was involved in activities damaging state security, and relevant authorities are investigating her according to China's criminal law."
A statement by Mr. Xue said communist Chinese authorities held the three separately before releasing the father and son March 8. It said the Chinese refused the couple's request to allow the boy to be visited by a parent or his grandparents, with whom the family had been visiting. It also said authorities questioned Mr. Xue on his wife's research, publications and two trips to Taiwan in 1995 and 1999.
A Human Rights in China spokesman said there has been no word on Mrs. Gao's whereabouts or her condition.
The group also released a two-page account Mr. Xue provided of his 26 days in Chinese detention.
He said his family was detained by national security agents at Beijing's airport, searched, driven for two hours and held in separate facilities.
"I haven't seen my wife, and I don't know what has happened to her," he wrote.
"They told me that the only way I could see my son was that I told them more stories opposing my wife. In fact, they were using my son as a hostage to push me to say something against my wife. However, I never believe my wife had done anything wrong against the Chinese government, and I have the full confidence on my wife's innocence."
He added, "Our church lost hope of finding us alive and was even preparing to have a memorial service for our family, including the five-year-old boy, of course."
Human Rights in China said the Gao case fits a pattern by the Beijing regime of detaining Chinese-born scholars who have returned to their homeland. In one instance in 1999, Fairleigh Dickinson University historian Song Yongyiwas detained for more than six months while in China visiting family and attending conferences.

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