Unwarrented Trial of Scholar
Human Rights Watch (HRW) condemned the trial and conviction in Beijing of Li Shaomin, a U.S. academic, on "espionage" charges. HRW said the judicial proceedings against him were unfair and unwarranted from the outset. Li is expected to be deported back to the U.S. immediately. "We welcome the fact that Li will be able to rejoin his family, but we deplore that the Chinese government has found a way to turn academic pursuits into criminal activities," said Saman Zia-Zarifi, Academic Freedom Director for HRW.
"We also urge Chinese authorities to immediately and unconditionally release the other academics they have arbitrarily detained."
Li Shaomin, a U.S. citizen, went on trial on Saturday, 14 July 2001, the day after China’s successful bid for the 2008 Olympics. Li is among a group of Chinese scholars with ties to the West who have been arbitrarily detained in recent months."This is hardly a celebration of the Olympic spirit," Zia-Zarifi said. "The Chinese government should be apologizing to these scholars and their families and offering compensation for arbitrary arrest and detention."HRW said Li's release is one more example of international pressure producing results, but that long-term damage to academic freedom and exchanges with China had been done.
Zia-Zarifi noted that in April 2001, more than 400 China specialists around the world appealed to President Jiang Zemin to either release the detained scholars immediately or give them a chance to defend themselves in a court of law with international standards of due process. China has done neither.Among the remaining detainees are four U.S.-based individuals. They are Gao Shan, Wu Jianmin, Liu Yiaping, and Tan Guangguang (also seen as Qin Guangguang). Gao is a researcher at American University in Washington. Wu is a writer and former staff member at the Communist Party School in Beijing; Li is a businessman; and Tan is a pharmaceutical expert. They are also facing possible trials.
Another scholar, Xu Zerong, has been in detention for nine months. He holds a PhD from Oxford University, where his dissertation was on the role of the People's Liberation Army during the Korean War. The charges against him are not known, and his family has reportedly had no contact with him since his arrest. It is crucial that international pressure be maintained for the release of all five.
Noting that U.S. President George Bush had personally intervened on the cases of Gao and Li, HRW said it was important for the president to remain personally engaged on the issue of arbitrary detention in China. His upcoming visit to Shanghai and Beijing in October 2001 for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum would provide additional leverage for pressure.