China Releases U.S. Scholars

One of the scholars, American University researcher Gao Zhan, immediately returned to the United States, arriving in Detroit this morning.

The Chinese government granted both Gao and fellow scholar Qin Guangguang parole for medical reasons earlier in the day. Qin received the same sentence, but it’s not clear whether their cases were connected.

Powell, in Vietnam on a diplomatic tour, said the U.S. was “very pleased” to hear of the releases.

Unlike Gao, Qin decided to remain in China. No further details on Qin’s case have been released.

Powell will arrive in China Saturday to meet with President Jiang Zemin and other officials.

Gao was convicted Tuesday for allegedly spying for Taiwan and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

She was first detained Feb. 11 at the Beijing airport with her husband, Xue Donghua, and 5-year-old son Andrew on a family trip to China. The family was held for 26 days before Xue and Andrew were allowed to return to the U.S.

Xue told reporters he was “very happy, very surprised,” by the news that Gao would return. He met her at the airport in Detroit earlier today.

Prosecutors allege Gao passed sensitive material to Li Shaomin, an American who teaches business at the City University of Hong Kong. Li was convicted of spying July 14 and deported yesterday.

Gao’s lawyers deny she did anything illegal.

The case had increased tension between Beijing and Washington because Gao’s son is an American citizen and Chinese officials hadn’t told the U.S. embassy about his initial detention, as required by treaty.