- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 6, 2001

Former prisoner Gao Zhan yesterday detailed how her Chinese interrogators learned their techniques from Russia's KGB, as described in the Nobel prize-winning book "The Gulag Archipelago."
In her first speech since returning to her duties at American University, Mrs. Gao said the inquisitors shined a bright light — like that of a 300-watt bulb — up close in her face throughout interrogations that sometimes lasted as long as 12 hours.
The questioning was like that conducted by the KGB, Mrs. Gao said, which she recognized from reading and rereading Aleksandr Isaevich Solzhenitsyn's "The Gulag Archipelago" during her 166 days in captivity near Beijing. It was among the few books available in the Chinese jail, which had "very harsh physical conditions."
"There was so much similarity," Mrs. Gao said. It was like they "were trained to use it as a textbook."
Mrs. Gao said she was reminded yesterday of the questioning when a student rose to ask a question during the first international issues forum of the school year at AU's School of International Services. The student had risen in front of an open door with the bright sunlight at his back.
She said her interrogators repeatedly told her to think about her crime. "I never for one second thought that I had committed a crime," she said.
On Feb. 11, Chinese police detained Mrs. Gao, husband Xue Donghua and their American-born son Andrew as they were preparing to fly from China after visiting family. Mrs. Gao and Mr. Xue had lived in the United States 12 years and passed all requirements to become U.S. citizens, except for taking the oath.
Mr. Xue and 5-year-old Andrew were released after 26 days.
Chinese officials apparently believed that Mrs. Gao's writings and research in neighboring Taiwan and an exchange of academic papers with other scholars amounted to spying. Mrs. Gao was convicted of spying after a three-hour trial on July 24, sentenced to 10 years in prison and then released two days later on medical probation.
Yesterday, Mrs. Gao joined American University President Benjamin Ladner and International Services Dean Louis W. Goodman in crediting the university and international academic institutions for securing her release. She said she was "exercising her birthright of academic freedom."
"It was not me as an individual who mattered in the whole rescuing effort," she said. "It was a fundamental human principle, as embodied by the institution of education."
"Because I was held in incommunicado for the most part of my detention, I didn't have any knowledge of what was going on beyond my cell," Mrs. Gao said.
She later learned that a petition had been signed by more than 400 scholars from 20 countries, and that Mr. Ladner informed the Bush administration.
Laughter broke out in the forum attended by about 175 students and AU personnel when university librarian Pat Wand thanked Mrs. Gao for returning four overdue books that she had checked out before going to China. Ms. Wand said Mrs. Gao would not be fined.
"We figured you more than paid your dues," Mr. Ladner said.
Mrs. Gao said she expects to raise her hand soon to take the oath of allegiance to the United States.
Sen. George F. Allen, Virginia Republican, had scheduled her naturalization ceremony for Aug. 2 in front of the Capitol. The Immigration and Naturalization Service canceled it without explanation.


Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide