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Two U.S. residents were convicted Tuesday of spying for Taiwan and sentenced to 10 years in prison, the state news agency reported, casting a pall over a visit this weekend by Secretary of State Colin Powell. Gao Zhan and Qin Guangguang “both collected intelligence for spy agencies in Taiwan, causing a serious threat to China’s national security,” the Xinhua news agency said in the first official confirmation of their sentences. A Chinese scholar, Qu Wei, also was sentenced to 13 years in prison, Xinhua said. China has detained at least five Chinese-born academics and writers with U.S. links over the past year, straining already fraying ties. President Bush has appealed to his Chinese counterpart, Jiang Zemin, for their release. Powell will raise Gao’s case during his visit — which begins Saturday and which both sides had hoped would ease relations — said a State Department official travelling with Powell in Asia. Gao, a 39-year-old researcher from the American University in Washington with permanent resident status, expressed surprise at the severity of the sentence, said her lawyer Bai Xuebiao. She “was unhappy,” Bai said. “She told me it was too severe.” After sentencing, Gao’s lawyers appealed for parole on medical grounds. There was no immediate response. Bai said Gao suffers from serious heart problems that twice caused her breathing difficulties over the past two weeks. Speaking before it was revealed that Qin also was convicted Tuesday, the State Department official said the United States was dismayed by Gao’s conviction and by China’s refusal to allow a U.S. official to attend her trial. The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, expressed concern that the speed of the trial — it lasted only three hours — may have prevented Gao’s lawyer from effectively defending her. Xinhua said Qu, the Chinese scholar, was convicted of providing secrets and intelligence to Gao and Li Shaomin, an American business professor convicted July 14 of spying for Taiwan. It said they were convicted of “directly or indirectly providing state secrets and intelligence to Taiwan.” Xinhua gave no other details. The role of Qin was not described. The three judges at Beijing’s No. 1 Intermediate People’s Court deliberated for 30 minutes before giving their verdict against Gao. No witnesses were called. Gao spoke eight times during the trial, Bai said. Gao’s legal team says she gave Li photocopied book and magazine articles about Taiwan and its relations with China. Her lawyers say Gao knew some were not meant for widespread distribution, but said she had no reason to know they were secret. “She admits that she did do some things for some people. But Gao Zhan herself does not regard these activities as espionage activities,” said Bai. Gao “repeatedly stressed that she loves China, that she would not have done these things if she had known that her actions might have harmed China’s interests,” Bai said. “Her main point was that she feels her actions absolutely did not harm China’s interests.” Bai said he would meet Gao in two to three days and recommend that she appeal. Spokesmen for the court and China’s Justice Ministry refused to comment on the case. A spokesman for Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan, who was at a regional conference in Vietnam, would not answer questions about how Tang would handle the issue when he meets Powell on Saturday. “We already have enough evidence to show that Gao Zhan was a spy for a Taiwanese spying outfit,” spokesman Sun Yuxi said in Hanoi. “She has admitted this, and her case is being handled entirely according to Chinese law.” The U.S. Embassy issued a brief statement saying American officials would press the Chinese government for Gao’s early release. Gao was detained Feb. 11 during a family visit to China. Her detention caused a diplomatic uproar because Chinese officials also temporarily held her 5-year-old son, an American citizen, without notifying the U.S. Embassy as required by treaty. Gao’s husband, Xue Donghua, expressed surprise at the verdict. He said that because of U.S. diplomatic pressure and the Powell visit, he had expected his wife to be cleared and released. Xue said he believed Chinese authorities were trying to show a hard line to Washington. “I think they want to tell the U.S. government that they are not listening to what they’re saying,” Xue said by telephone from the family’s home in Virginia. The Chinese-born Xue was detained with Gao but later released. He returned to the United States with their son and was later sworn in as an American citizen. Copyright 2001 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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