HONG KONG (February 17, 2011) – The Beijing High People’s Court today upheld a lower court’s verdict against Xue Feng (薛锋), sentencing the American geologist to an eight-year prison term for “gathering intelligence and unlawfully trafficking in state secrets for overseas entities.”
The charges stem from events in 2005, when Xue, a 46-year-old naturalized US citizen who earned his Ph.D. in geology from the University of Chicago, was working for the American energy and engineering consulting firm IHS. Xue became aware of and introduced to his employer a database of information about China’s oil industry that both Xue and IHS believed was a commercially available product. After IHS purchased the database, the information contained therein was subsequently classified as a state secret. IHS continues to operate in China, and it continues to offer for sale the “state secrets” it purchased.
Xue was detained in Beijing in November 2007 and held for nearly a month before the US embassy was notified and granted access to him, a violation of the consular agreement between the United States and China. Consular officials who visited Xue said that he complained of being physically abused by his interrogators. Xue showed burn marks where he stated that the interrogators stubbed out their cigarettes. The case itself has been marked by repeated delays and due process violations. Xue was held for a year before being granted access to a lawyer. It took another year between his first trial and his sentencing in July last year. Today’s decision comes more than two months after the Beijing High Court heard the case on appeal on November 30.
After the case went public in November 2009, US Ambassador Jon Huntsman focused on Xue’s plight and began paying him monthly visits. During his November 2009 state visit to China, President Obama raised the case with President Hu Jintao, and since that time American officials have repeatedly raised the case and pleaded for clemency for Xue, who suffers from a heart condition that has necessitated hospitalization during his long incarceration.
During Hu’s recent state visit to Washington, Xue’s congressman, Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas), chairman of the House Trade Subcommittee, questioned Hu about the case, and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Florida), chair of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, raised Xue in an open letter she delivered to Hu on January 20.
Speaking from San Francisco, John Kamm, executive director of The Dui Hua Foundation, said he was “disappointed, but not surprised” by the high court’s decision. “This case has been raised repeatedly by the President of the United States, leading administration officials, and senior members of Congress, but this appears to have counted for nothing. This outcome will be greeted with dismay and concern in Washington and throughout the international business community.”
With the court’s rejection of Xue’s appeal, Dui Hua’s efforts will now turn to working actively to secure his earliest possible release by continuing to raise his case in the hope he will be considered for commutation or medical parole.
The Dui Hua Foundation
February 17, 2011