BEIJING - Monday's eight-year prison sentence for an American geologist who was detained and tortured by China's state security agents over an oil industry database is being viewed as a troubling example of China's rough justice system and the way the U.S. government handles cases against its citizens.
Beijing's No. 1 Intermediate People's Court convicted Xue Feng of collecting intelligence and illegally providing state secrets, and immediately sentenced him.
The U.S. ambassador to China, Jon Huntsman, witnessed the sentencing in a show of high-level U.S. government concern about the case. Afterward, the U.S. Embassy released a statement saying it was dismayed and urged China to grant Xue "humanitarian release and immediately deport him."
For Xue, the verdict comes more than six months since his last court hearing and 21/2years after he was detained. Chinese officials never explained the lengthy pretrial detention period.
Born in China and trained at the University of Chicago, Xue ran afoul of authorities for arranging the sale of a detailed commercial database on China's oil industry to an energy consulting firm he worked for. The case has been seen as a troubling complex of the pitfalls of Chinese justice, especially for native Chinese who go abroad for education and work, acquire foreign citizenship and then return to China.
"This is a very harsh sentence. It's a very sad day for justice in China," said John Kamm, an American human rights campaigner whom the State Department turned to for help last year to lobby for Xue's release. "It's a huge disappointment and will send very real shivers up the spines of businesses that do business in China."