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The BBC'S Rob Watson
"Mr Song's release is connected to China's desire for permanent US trade privileges and membership of the WTO"
 real 28k

Saturday, 29 January, 2000, 08:02 GMT
Academic freed by China flies home

Song Yongyi Song Yongyi: Well known for meticulous research


A US-based academic charged in China with gathering state secrets is on his way home.

Song Yongyi was released after six months detention following an appeal by a delegation of pro-China American Congressmen to Chinese President Jiang Zemin earlier this month.

Chinese police detained Mr Song last August, a month after he arrived to conduct what colleagues called research on the history of China's 1966-1976 Cultural Revolution.


I hope this will help convince opponents of normal trade relations that open and honest engagement is the best course for both the United States and China
US Congressman Matt Salmon


He was formally arrested in December and accused of illegally sending documents containing state secrets out of China.

Just three days ago, China said Mr Song had "confessed everything" and faced court proceedings.

Mr Song was able to call his wife, Helen Yao, in the US to announce his release. Mrs Yao had been arrested with her husband but was released in November.

"He called me and said he was free. Today is a very exciting day," she said.

Trade issues

A BBC correspondent in Washington, Rob Watson, says that many in the US capital suspect Mr Song's release is connected to China's desire for permanent US trade privileges and membership of the World Trade Organisation.

Both these issue are set to come before Congress in the months ahead.

One of the US congressmen who lobbied President Jiang for Mr Song's release hailed the breakthrough as proof that engagement with China worked.


We hope this event is a harbinger of continued open academic research in China
US Ambassador in China


Arizona Republican Matt Salmon called on opponents of US trade relations with China to take note.

"I hope this will help convince opponents of normal trade relations that open and honest engagement is the best course for both the United States and China," he said.

In Beijing, the US Ambassador, Admiral Joseph Prueher welcomed the release in a statement.

"Our embassy is pleased with the result of the Chinese government's decision and the attention focused on this case by the Administration, Congress and the academic community.

"We hope this event is a harbinger of continued open academic research in China as well as a broadened and constructive dialogue with our host government on related issues," Ambassador Prueher said.

Sensitive research

A Chinese citizen, Mr Song worked as a librarian and researcher at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

He was well known in academic circles for meticulous research of newspapers and documents produced during the decade of political fanaticism that left millions dead.

The late Chairman Mao Zedong unleashed the revolution to purge his political enemies and consolidate power.

Mr Song, a US resident for 10 years, was scheduled to be sworn in as a US citizen in September last year.

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See also:
13 Jan 00 |  Asia-Pacific
China defends academic's detention
14 Aug 99 |  From Our Own Correspondent
China's educational elite
09 Nov 99 |  China 50 years of communism
Mao's legacy
28 Jan 00 |  Asia-Pacific
China frees academic in secrets case
30 Sep 99 |  China 50 years of communism
Images of the Cultural Revolution

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