China rejects criticism of US geologist’s 8-year prison sentence over oil industry database

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

China rejects criticism of US geologist’s sentence

BEIJING — China on Tuesday rejected U.S. criticism of its treatment of an American geologist who was sentenced to eight years in prison for spying and collecting state secrets.

The U.S. Embassy issued a statement calling for Xue Feng’s immediate release and deportation to the United States after he was sentenced Monday, and U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman attended the court hearing to show Washington’s interest.

Xue was punished for gathering data on China’s oil industry in violation of vague secrets laws the government uses to restrict business information.

During Xue’s detention that started in November 2007, Chinese state security agents stubbed lit cigarettes on his arms.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang told a news conference Tuesday that Xue’s rights were fully guaranteed and the case is China’s internal affair.

“Do you think we should release him without any charges and then people will say the judicial system is fair and transparent?” Qin asked. “The rights of the defendant were fully guaranteed.”

He called the case an internal affair that “brooks no foreign interference.”

Monday’s verdict said the 45-year-old, China-born Xue received documents on geological conditions of onshore oil wells and a database that gave the coordinates of more than 30,000 oil and gas wells belonging to China National Petroleum Corporation and listed subsidiary PetroChina Ltd.

The Beijing No. 1 Intermediate People’s Court said that information was sold to IHS Energy, the U.S. consultancy Xue worked for and now known as IHS Inc.

Chinese officials have wide authority to classify information as state secrets. Draft regulations released by the government in April said business secrets of major state companies qualify as state secrets.

During Xue’s closed-door trial, the court’s sentencing document said he defended himself, arguing that the information he gathered “is data that the oil sector in countries around the world make public.”

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