SAN FRANCISCO (September 27, 2007) – Chan Yu-lam (陈瑜琳), a Hong Kong resident and naturalized British citizen convicted of espionage in 2004, has had his life sentence commuted to a fixed-term sentence of 19½ years, The Dui Hua Foundation has learned from an informed source in China.
The Shaoguan Intermediate People’s Court in Guangdong Province ordered the commutation on August 15, 2007. Chan’s new sentence will expire on February 14, 2027.
“Under Chinese law, a prisoner whose life sentence is commuted receives no credit for time served,” said Dui Hua Executive Director John Kamm. “However, a prisoner with a fixed-term sentence is in a better position to receive future sentence reductions, and it is also easier for the prisoner to receive medical parole. Chan Yu-lam suffers from multiple illnesses, including gout, glaucoma, and bronchitis, and we understand that his family is applying to the prison authorities to grant him medical parole.”
Chan Yu-lam was taken into custody by Chinese security police on January 31, 2003, after crossing the border at Shenzhen to attend a business meeting. The authorities charge that Chan passed secrets to an alleged British agent while employed as a foreign affairs official at the Xinhua News Agency, which served as the Chinese government’s de facto representative office in Hong Kong prior to the former British colony’s handover in 1997.
Chan was convicted and sentenced to life in prison by the Guangzhou Intermediate People’s Court on March 4, 2004. After his appeal was rejected in August 2004, Chan was then transferred to Shaoguan Prison, where he continues to serve his sentence.
Several other former Xinhua employees were also arrested with Chan in connection with what Chinese officials at the time claimed to be a “Hong Kong spy ring,” though no clear links between the detainees have ever been independently confirmed.
After leaving Xinhua in 1994, Chan managed the European assets of Guangdong Enterprise Holdings, Ltd. He became a British citizen in 1996. However, the Chinese government has refused to recognize Chan’s British citizenship in adjudicating his case and has repeatedly denied British requests for consular access since his detention.
The Dui Hua Foundation
San Francisco, California
September 27, 2007