Beijing. The United States pressed China again on Tuesday to release an American geologist jailed on charges of stealing state secrets, saying his case had not been handled transparently.
Xue Feng, who was born in China and later became a naturalized US citizen, was detained in late 2007 after negotiating the sale of an oil industry database to his employer at the time, Colorado-based consultant IHS Energy.
“Our sense has been that the case has not been handled with the kind of transparency that would befit a nation which tells us that the rule of law is paramount in all judicial processes,” said Robert Goldberg, US Embassy Deputy Chief of Mission.
Goldberg said the embassy had filed a formal protest with the Chinese Foreign Ministry after being denied permission to attend Xue’s appeal at a Beijing court on Tuesday.
“We urge the Chinese to grant Dr. Xue humanitarian release and immediate deportation so that he can return home to the United States and reunite with his family,” the diplomat said.
“I’m hoping that this is not an issue that we will have to address during President Hu Jintao’s visit,” he added, referring to the Chinese leader’s US trip in January.
China has previously denounced Washington’s involvement in Xue’s case, saying it was handled in accordance with the law and was an internal matter.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said China would “continue to fulfil relevant obligations based on the China-United States consular convention” and handle the case “according to Chinese laws.” He did not elaborate.
Goldberg said Xue, who has been allowed consular visits in jail where he is serving an eight-year sentence, was in surprisingly good spirits.
“We believe at this point he is not being mistreated,” he said.
Xue was convicted of attempting to obtain and traffic in state secrets, a year after his trial ended. The database was classified as a state secret only after it was sold.
China’s vague state secrets laws received international attention last year when Australian citizen Stern Hu and three colleagues working for mining giant Rio Tinto were detained for stealing state secrets during the course of tense iron ore negotiations.
The four were later convicted of the lesser charges of receiving kickbacks and stealing commercial secrets.