- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 5, 2002

The entire New Jersey congressional delegation has written to Chinese President Jiang Zemin demanding the immediate release of a 67-year-old American detainee.

"I am calling upon the oppressive regime in Beijing to release our citizen from captivity and allow him to return home to his family," said Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., who wrote the letter to the Chinese government. The letter was signed by New Jersey's 13 congressmen and two senators.

Fong Fuming, 67, of West Orange, N.J., was arrested two years ago at Beijing's airport. For over a year, Mr. Fong, who became a naturalized American citizen in 1994, was denied the right to see a lawyer based on a claim that his case involved state secrets.

Mr. Fong's family says that the electrical engineering consultant could not have been a spy at his age. The possibilities of him being a U.S. spy were "none whatsoever," said a family member who did not wish to be identified.

He was in China to meet with officials of a Hong Kong-based electrical company.

Five months after he was detained, prosecutors finally charged him with handing out bribes worth about $30,000 to obtain 43 documents from an engineer at China's State Power Corp. Authorities have yet to convict him on such charges.

It may be that China is continuing to hold Mr. Fong rather than face embarrassment for mistakenly arresting and charging him with espionage, said a family member.

With no real proof of wrongdoing put forth, the detention of Fong Fuming must end, said Mr. Pascrell, a Democrat.

In the Feb. 28 letter to Mr. Jiang, Mr. Pascrell and other lawmakers said Chinese authorities had violated their own laws.

While Chinese law mandates that a judgment be rendered within 45 days, plus one 30-day extension if needed, Mr. Fong has been detained for more than 150 days since Beijing's No. 1 Intermediate People's Court accepted the case.

The letter addressed to Mr. Jiang also said that harsh jail conditions and cruel treatment by guards had caused Mr. Fong's health to deteriorate.

Despite the fact that Mr. Fong has cholesterol problems and a history of cancer, Chinese authorities have refused to improve their treatment, said the letter.

"We have to beg for [Mr. Fongs] medical treatment. This is wrong," Mr. Pascrell said.

The letter also said a U.S. Embassy representative learned during a recent visit to Mr. Fong that the American prisoner has been singled out for punishment and forced to sit on a concrete slab because his reduced hearing ability made it hard for him to follow jailers' orders.

Mr. Fong's father-in-law, the late P.F. Chang, suffered a similar fate at the hands of the Chinese government. He was accused of being "an American spy and a counterrevolutionary."

It was not until 1982 that Mr. Chang was posthumously cleared of the charges by Beijing.

A State Department official confirmed that Mr. Fong's case was raised by President Bush in Beijing on his trip to Asia earlier this month, but refused to comment on the Chinese response.

"This isn't just a kangaroo court, this is a kangaroo government," Mr. Pascrell said. "We would not tolerate this [if a U.S. citizen were being] detained in the Middle East."

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