(BEIJING) - An American electrical engineer whose detention has drawn protests from Washington was sentenced by a Beijing court Thursday to five years in prison for obtaining state secrets and giving bribes.
The time that Fong Fuming has spent in detention will be deducted from his prison term, the U.S. Embassy said. Fong has been in detention for two years, his U.S. lawyer says, but China says it's less than that.
Fong, of West Orange, N.J., was accused of obtaining secret documents from a state power official and giving out $245,000 in bribes. He was among a series of U.S. citizens and residents charged over the past two years with violating Chinese national security laws.
Fong denied paying bribes and contended that the power official was trying to extort money from him, according to his U.S. lawyer, Jerome A. Cohen.
The United States has repeatedly protested to China over the handling of Fong's case, saying Chinese courts violated international standards by holding Fong for months without indicting him. His family says Fong, 67, has also been mistreated in detention.
The Beijing No. 1 Intermediate People's Court convicted Fong of ``illegally obtaining state secrets and bribery on behalf of a company,'' an embassy spokesman said. But he was acquitted of ``individual bribery and obtaining a large number of state secrets on behalf of a foreign entity,'' said the spokesman.
China's government-run news agency, Xinhua, confirmed the five-year sentence.
The U.S. Embassy spokesman said Fong will be deported after his sentence is served. An embassy diplomat was present at the sentencing, as was a member of Fong's family. The spokesman declined to give other details, citing privacy rules.
Fong was detained Feb. 28, 2000, as he was arriving in Beijing to meet an American power company bidding for a contract, according to Cohen. China's Foreign Ministry gave the date of Fong's detention as Aug. 28, 2000.
Cohen said the discrepancy stems from Chinese officials' decision to hold Fong for the first six months under ``supervised residence,'' meant to be a form of house arrest. Apparently, authorities do not class that as detention.
Fong, a former employee of the Chinese power industry, advises foreign firms on power projects in China and elsewhere in Asia. He became a U.S. citizen in 1994. His wife and two sons also are U.S. citizens.
Fong went on trial Oct. 22 following a weekend visit to China by President Bush. Another hearing was held Nov. 26. Lawyers gave the court evidence meant to show that Fong was really a victim of official misconduct, according to Cohen.
The length of Fong's trial was unusual for China, where hearings often last only a few hours and verdicts tend to be quickly announced.
Fong suffers from chest pains and high blood pressure and has been deprived of his eyeglasses and hearing aid for much of his time in detention, his family says.
Christopher H. Smith, a U.S. lawmaker from New Jersey, had been hopeful that Fong might be set free as a goodwill gesture and ``was disappointed in the verdict,'' a spokesman said.