- The Washington Times - Friday, May 18, 2001

From combined dispatches

HONG KONG — China has formally charged an American business professor with spying for Taiwan, raising the stakes in an anti-espionage campaign that has angered Washington and ensnared at least five foreign-trained intellectuals.

Li Shaomin, a U.S. citizen who taught at the City University of Hong Kong, disappeared after crossing the border into China on Feb. 25 to visit a friend. His wife, Liu Yingli, said a State Security Ministry official informed her by telephone Tuesday of his formal arrest on charges of spying for Taiwan.

"He is a scholar. What they accuse him of is pure nonsense," Mrs. Li told the Associated Press. "I want the world to know my husband has done nothing wrong."

U.S. Embassy officials in Beijing said yesterday that they had been informed of Mr. Li´s arrest and were pressing for his release on humanitarian grounds.

"We are very concerned by this development and will continue to express our concern about Mr. Li´s case to the Chinese government," said a spokesman for the U.S. Embassy, speaking on condition of anonymity.

In Beijing, meanwhile, China repeated its refusal to allow a damaged U.S. Navy surveillance plane to fly home and said it had not received a formal request to remove the plane by cargo aircraft.

"We have already said that it is impossible for it to fly back," Sun Yuxi, the Foreign Ministry spokesman, told reporters.

Mr. Sun said the two countries were working through diplomatic channels to solve the dispute over the return of the crippled EP-3E surveillance plane, stranded on China´s Hainan island since an April 1 collision with a Chinese fighter jet, which crashed.

Mr. Sun said he had seen reports of proposals that the United States charter a cargo plane to fly out the dismantled EP-3E, but declined further comment because "there has been no formal request from the United States."

Washington has demanded the return of the $80 million aircraft, forced to make an emergency landing at a Chinese military base after the collision in international airspace off China.

Wu Jianmin, a U.S. citizen from New York City, was detained on April 8 on suspicion of spying for Taiwan. Gao Zhan, An American University researcher and U.S. permanent resident, was detained Feb. 11 on espionage charges. China has not commented on the cause for the detentions of the other two scholars.

A U.S. consular official last met with Mr. Li on April 30. At the time, he was in "generally good health," the embassy spokesman said. An embassy official delivered clothing, books and letters for Mr. Li on Wednesday, but was not allowed to meet with him.

Mr. Li´s wife said she hoped the U.S. government would take up her husband´s case at the highest diplomatic levels.

"I wish the American government would do more," she said.

A spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry said his government had complied with local laws as well as consular treaties but that he was not in a position to comment further on Mr. Li´s case.

"The details are not suitable for disclosure at the moment," the spokesman, Mr. Sun, said at a press briefing.

Mrs. Li said the family hired a mainland Chinese lawyer for her husband, but they did not know if the attorney would be able to get access to him.

The Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy reported that Mr. Li is being held at a detention center run by the Beijing State Security Bureau. Citing sources it did not identify, the rights group said Mr. Li definitely would be tried and sentenced but that "because he is an American citizen, he will possibly be deported after sentencing."

Last week, 104 Hong Kong academics issued a petition demanding that Beijing release Mr. Li. The appeal said the arrests of Mr. Li and other scholars have caused alarm, particularly among scholars living in Hong Kong who travel regularly to the Chinese mainland.

Mr. Li earned a doctorate in sociology from Princeton University in 1988 and taught at Beijing University. He has served as a U.N. adviser to China on the business applications of demographic data and has given seminars for the State Statistical Bureau of China.

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