Chinese scholar living in U.S. is detained in Beijing

BEIJING — BEIJING - A Chinese scholar based in the United States has been held in isolation in China for five weeks because of "activities damaging state security," the authorities acknowledged yesterday.

The scholar's husband and 5-year-old son were held separately for 26 days, unable to see each other, before they were freed March 8 and returned to the United States.


The boy is a U.S. citizen, but the U.S. Embassy was not notified of his detention.

Gao Zhan, a sociologist at American University in Washington, was detained by state security officers with her husband, Xue Donghua, and son, Andrew Xue, at the Beijing airport Feb. 11.


The family was returning home from a three-week visit, according to Xue.

News of the detentions coincides with a visit to New York and Washington of a top Chinese foreign policy official, Deputy Prime Minister Qian Qichen, who is seeking to smooth Chinese-U.S. relations.

Xue, a computer systems analyst, said he was kept for 26 days in a single room, with no reading materials or television, and that his requests to make telephone calls and see a lawyer were refused. He said he had immediately informed his captors that their child was a U.S. citizen.

Told that the boy was held in a government nursery, Xue "demanded that they allow my son to stay with one of us, or at least that he be sent to my parents or in-laws" in China, he said. But the officials refused, and "they told me that the only way I could see my son was if I told them more unfavorable stories about my wife."

Xue said that in the initial days of his detention, he was questioned about his wife's research and about visits she made to Taiwan in 1995 and 1999. Gao is treasurer of the Association of Chinese Political Studies, a group of mainly Chinese-born scholars working abroad, and she was part of an academic delegation from that group that visited Taiwan in 1999 to discuss issues in relations between the mainland and Taiwan.

Goa's detention is the third recent incident in which Chinese scholars permanently living in the United States, and anticipating a change in citizenship, have been held on security charges.

Song Yongyi, a librarian at Dickinson College in Pennsylvania, was detained for five months and charged with "providing confidential materials to foreigners" during a visit to gather materials about the Cultural Revolution.

Hua Di, a nuclear weapons expert at Stanford University, was lured back to China with false promises of security in 1998 and arrested for revealing state secrets. Last fall, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison.