China To Try U.S. Scholar

The trial of an American business professor accused of spying for Taiwan will begin Saturday, and a U.S. diplomat will be allowed to attend, a Chinese official said Tuesday.

Li Shaomin's trial is the first in a crackdown in which six Chinese-born intellectuals with U.S. ties have been detained on spying charges over the past year.

"It will not be open to the public, in accordance with law," said Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue.

There has been official speculation in Washington that Li would be quickly convicted and then expelled from China. Chinese officials insist Li, who teaches at City University of Hong Kong, already has confessed to spying charges.

Li was detained Feb. 25 after crossing into China from Hong Kong. He was charged in May with spying.

Zhang said a U.S. diplomat will be allowed to attend Li's trial, but she didn't respond to questions about whether Li would be allowed an independent defense lawyer.

Li was born in China and has a Ph.D. from Princeton University.

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Zhang would not give any information on proceedings against Gao Zhan, a Chinese citizen who taught at American University in Washington, D.C. She was detained Feb. 11 during a family visit to China and charged with spying for Taiwan.

U.S. officials have suggested Gao also would be quickly convicted and expelled from China.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told a news briefing last Thursday that it was "an open question as to whether one will be able to say that they got a fair trial or not, particularly given what we know about the Chinese legal system."

Last week, Secretary of State Colin Powell said that President Bush talked to Chinese President Jiang Zemin by telephone Thursday about the cases of the two U.S.-connected Chinese scholars.

Sean McCormack, a spokesman for the National Security Council, said that during the telephone call Mr. Bush "raised with President Jiang the cases of the detained U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents in China."

"President Bush has repeatedly emphasized the importance of protecting the rights of our citizens abroad. He is very concerned about the detained American citizens and legal permanent residents and this administration continues to press for their fair treatment and release at every opportunity," McCormack added.

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