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China on Thursday expelled a U.S.-based Chinese sociologist convicted of spying for Taiwan, U.S. officials said, removing yet another source of tension between the two countries ahead of a visit by Secretary of State Colin Powell. Gao Zhan, who was convicted Tuesday, left Beijing on a flight to the United States, said an official traveling with Powell in Vietnam. The U.S. Embassy in Beijing also confirmed the release. Gao was deported just one day after China expelled Chinese-born American business professor Li Shaomin, who was also convicted of spying for Taiwan in the same case. Prosecutors charged Gao helped Li. The detentions of Gao, Li and other Chinese-born academics, writers and entrepreneurs over the past year strained relations with Washington and stirred unease among China scholars abroad. The two releases appeared to be attempts by Beijing to improve ties prior to Powell’s arrival on Saturday. “I think the relationship is on an upswing now, now that these irritations are behind us,” Powell said hours before Gao’s release. “I know they are anxious to move forward,” he added, referring to the Beijing government. Gao had been sentenced to 10 years. But a court agreed to consider a request for medical parole in what appeared to be an attempt by Beijing to end a growing diplomatic furor over her case. The U.S. Embassy in Beijing said that Gao was on a flight to Detroit, expected to arrive at 10 a.m. EDT. She was to be met by her family and a State Department official. Gao, 39, is a researcher at American University in Washington. She was detained Feb. 11 at the Beijing airport during a family visit to China. Her husband and their 5-year-old son were detained with her, but released after 26 days. The incident caused an uproar in Washington because Gao’s son is an American citizen and Chinese authorities failed to inform the U.S. Embassy of his detention, as required by treaty. According to her lawyers, she denied spying, and said that she gave Li academic materials as part of normal scholarly exchanges. There was no immediate word on the status of Qin Guangguang, a third Chinese-born academic with U.S. ties who also was sentenced Tuesday on spying charges. Gao’s lawyer Bai Xuebiao expressed hope for her release Wednesday after a court hearing on the subject. “After our work this afternoon, we’re full of confidence,” the attorney said. The U.S. government issued a travel warning in April saying Chinese-born Americans risked detention in China if they had been involved in activities or published writings critical of Beijing. Li, who teaches business at the City University of Hong Kong, arrived Wednesday in San Francisco. “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,” he said. Li wouldn’t answer questions about his case. Airport spokesman Ron Wilson said Li met with State Department officials for a debriefing for a few minutes and was expected to travel to Washington. He did not provide details of the travel plans, but a spokeswoman for Sen. Robert Torricelli, D-N.J., said Li was expected to arrive in Washington on Thursday. Li was born in China and came to the United States in 1982. He became an American citizen and received a Ph.D. from Princeton University, later lecturing in China and working as a U.N. adviser to Beijing. He was detained Feb. 25. 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. 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, preventing her from returning to the United States. The U.S. Embassy said it could not confirm the report. Copyright 2001 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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