Informed sources in Guangzhou told the Dui Hua Foundation that Chinese scholar Xu Zerong (徐泽荣 or David Tsui) was granted a five-month sentence reduction in late April. A Hong Kong resident and expert on contemporary Chinese military history, Xu is serving his 10th year in prison for state secrets charges in connection with his academic research. This is his third sentence reduction, making him eligible for release on June 23, 2011, and marking the first confirmed act of clemency since April 2010 for a political prisoner held in China.

Starting with a 13-year sentence, Xu was granted a nine-month reduction in September 2006 and a 10-month reduction in April 2008. He is required to serve a three-year sentence of deprivation of political rights after his release.

The Beijing High People’s Court upheld a lower-court verdict against American geologist Xue Feng (薛锋) in February, sentencing him to eight years’ imprisonment for “gathering intelligence and unlawfully trafficking in state secrets for overseas entities.” The same month, Feng was transferred from a state-security detention center to Beijing Number Two Prison. He has been receiving monthly visits from the US embassy since March and been permitted to speak to his wife over the phone. Senior US officials and members of Congress have raised Xue’s case repeatedly, most recently at the Security and Economic Dialogue.

Chinese authorities held the 46-year-old naturalized US citizen for more than three years while his case dragged through the legal process. Charges against Xue are based on the procurement of an oil-industry database that was classified as a state secret after it was legally purchased.

Xue Feng is the second American citizen known by Dui Hua to be incarcerated in China for endangering state security. The first, businessman David Dong Wei (董维), was sentenced in closed court to 13 years’ imprisonment in April 2005. He received a 10-month sentence reduction in April 2008 and an 18-month sentence reduction in April 2010.