Try 1 month for $5

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – An American business professor convicted of spying and deported from China arrived Wednesday in the United States and was reunited with his wife and daughter.

Li Shaomin was greeted by his family in a conference room moments after arriving aboard a United Airlines flight from Beijing. He then was debriefed by State Department officials for less than 10 minutes, according to San Francisco International Airport spokesman Ron Wilson.

“Thank you all, I’m very tired. I’m really glad to be home to see my family. And I would like to thank my government for its support,” said Li, who appeared alert and happy.

Li, speaking in English and Chinese, deflected questions about his deportation or the specifics of his case.

Wilson said Li was expected to continue on to Washington, D.C., on another flight, but did not have details of those travel plans.

Li, who taught business at the City University of Hong Kong, was detained Feb. 25 and later charged with spying for Taiwan. He was convicted July 14.

The deportation of the Chinese-born Li has complicated an impending visit to Beijing on Saturday by Secretary of State Colin Powell.

While welcoming Li’s release, Powell said other cases involving detained U.S.-linked scholars in China “are on the way to resolution,” hinting that Beijing will also deport two scholars convicted Tuesday on charges of spying for Taiwan.

Beijing regards Taiwan, which has been ruled separately since 1949, as a renegade province, and the two sides actively spy on each other.

The spying trials have added to strains in U.S.-Chinese relations. Both sides hope Powell’s visit will help heal relations hurt by the April 1 collision of a U.S. Navy surveillance plane and Chinese fighter jet.

Washington criticized the conviction Tuesday of sociologist Gao Zhan, who was accused of helping Li. A second Chinese-born U.S. resident, Qin Guangguang, also was convicted of spying by the same court and given a 10-year prison term.

After meeting Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan in Hanoi, Powell said Beijing wanted to resolve the tensions.

“I think the relationship is on the upswing now, now that these irritations are behind us,” he told journalists at a meeting of Asian officials in Vietnam.

He said China would make an announcement within 24 hours about other cases of detained U.S.-linked scholars, though he did not mention Gao or Qin by name.

China has released little information about Li’s case, but the government said it had a “large amount of confirmed evidence” that he spied for Taiwan and damaged Chinese security.

Gao, who was detained Feb. 11, was accused of giving Li sensitive information. According to her lawyers, Gao denied she was a spy. They said she gave Li academic materials as part of normal scholarly exchanges.

Gao, 39, is a researcher at American University in Washington and has permanent U.S. resident status.

After her conviction, Gao applied for medical parole, citing heart problems. A defense lawyer returned to court Wednesday for a hearing on that request.

The court’s willingness to consider it suggested that Chinese officials might be looking for a way to placate Washington by releasing Gao.

Also Wednesday, the Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy in Hong Kong said security agents had seized the Chinese passport and U.S. residency permit of Qin’s wife, Feng Li, preventing her from returning to the United States. A spokesman for the U.S. Embassy said it couldn’t confirm the report.

Subscribe to Breaking News

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

The New York-based group Human Rights in China called Gao’s conviction a miscarriage of justice, and appealed to Powell to press for “significant progress on human rights” before an expected visit to Beijing by President Bush in October.

“China should not be rewarded for detaining scholars and others engaged in legitimate academic or business pursuits,” said a statement by the group’s academic freedom director, Saman Zia-Zarifi.

The group noted that China is holding three other Chinese-born writers or academics with foreign ties. They include a U.S. citizen from New York City and a historian trained at Harvard and Oxford universities.

Powell’s visit will be the first to Beijing by a senior official of the Bush administration.

The Chinese foreign minister tried to minimize the political impact of the spying cases.

“Following a period of difficulties, the China-U.S. relations, which capture universal attention, have recently been on the way to improvement,” Tang said Wednesday in a speech to the meeting in Vietnam.

It was not clear why Li was held so long after being ordered expelled. Chinese authorities may have wanted to keep him until after Gao and Qin were tried.

Chinese officials had claimed before Li’s trial that he confessed. His wife denied the accusations and said has she doesn’t even know which activities Beijing considered suspicious.

Li, 44, went to the United States in 1982. He later became an American citizen and received a Ph.D. from Princeton University. He has lectured in China and worked as a U.N. adviser to Beijing.

Congress passed a resolution last month demanding Li’s release. China specialists in Hong Kong issued a statement in May saying the case left many researchers – especially those from Hong Kong – uneasy about visiting the mainland.

Copyright © 2001, Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Subscribe to Breaking News

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.