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The BBC's Stephen Sackur in Washington
"President Bush was quick to claim credit"
 real 56k

Friday, 27 July, 2001, 02:07 GMT 03:07 UK
'Bittersweet' return for China-US scholar
Gao Zhan with her husband and son
Gao Zhan was overwhelmed to see her family again
A US-based scholar, Gao Zhan, convicted in China of spying for Taiwan, has arrived home after being released on medical grounds.


I am very concerned about my family, so I have been very careful in selecting the words that I am using

Gao Zhan
Wearing a red dress to celebrate her freedom, Mrs Gao said she felt "bittersweet" to be in the US, while her relatives were still in China.

China freed Mrs Gao and Qin Guangguang, a US pharmacist and author, just 36 hours after they had been sentenced to 10 years in prison.


Human rights issues will continue to loom large in US/China relations

The BBC's Stephen Sackur
US President George W Bush welcomed her return and indicated that pressure would be maintained on Beijing to improve its record on human rights.

Standing next to her husband, Xue Donghua, and with her arms around her 5-year-old son, Andrew, Mrs Gao said: "I am very concerned about my family, so I have been very careful in selecting the words that I am using.

"I am trying not to make any more trouble for my family back there."

Imprisoned scholars

Mr Xue said: "We have to remember those scholars who are still in prison."

Mrs Gao and Mr Qin were released two days before US Secretary of State Colin Powell arrives in Beijing.

And on Wednesday, business professor Li Shaomin, another Chinese-born US citizen, was deported and arrived back in the United States after being convicted of spying in the same case as Mrs Gao's.

Correspondents says China clearly did not want their cases to jeopardise the goal of putting relations with the US back on track.

Li Shaomin
Li Shaomin was set free after spending months in prison
Mr Powell's trip to China is intended to repair relations between the two countries, which have been strained in recent months.

On Wednesday, a third US based academic convicted of spying, Li Shaomin was expelled by Beijing.

There are three more high profile cases of people with US links currently detained in China:

  • US citizen Wu Jianming, held for spying for Taiwan
  • Permanent US resident Liu Yaping is being detained over a business dispute
  • Permanent US resident Teng Chunyan is in a labour camp for her participation in the outlawed Falun Gong spiritual movement.

The US Secretary of State is preparing for the October visit of President George W Bush to Beijing.

On Thursday, Mr Bush cited pressure his administration had put on China as one reason for the releases.

US-China rifts
Academics accused of spying
Collision between US spy plane and Chinese fighter
US arms sales to Taiwan
US missile defence plans
He added: "Perhaps China is beginning to realise that as she begins to deal with Western nations, she's going to have to make better decisions on human rights."

The BBC's Washington Correspondent, Stephen Sackur says it was a comment and a tone which suggested human rights issues will continue to loom large in US/China relations.

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See also:

26 Jul 01 | Asia-Pacific
China releases scholars - but why?
26 Jul 01 | Asia-Pacific
China frees scholar 'spies'
18 Apr 01 | Asia-Pacific
China petitioned over academics
30 Mar 01 | Asia-Pacific
China arrests another US academic
22 Mar 01 | Asia-Pacific
China: US academic 'confesses'
21 Mar 01 | Asia-Pacific
US family detained in China
22 Mar 01 | Asia-Pacific
US and China agree to differ
22 Mar 01 | Asia-Pacific
Analysis: Tension in US-China talks
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