CHINA formally arrests U.S. citizen suspected of spying; another freed scholar leaves country

Wednesday, August 1st 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

BEIJING (AP) _ A Chinese-born American writer detained in China has been formally arrested on charges of endangering China's security, a U.S. diplomat said Wednesday.

Wu Jianmin, detained in April, was arrested May 26 on charges of ``collecting information that endangered state security,'' said Mark Canning, spokesman for the U.S. Consulate in the southern city of Guangzhou.

Formal arrest moves Wu one step closer to a trial, though he still would have to be formally indicted.

China's detention of Wu and other U.S.-linked scholars over the past year strained ties with Washington and unsettled China scholars. To ease tensions, China last week freed three scholars before a visit by U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell last weekend.

U.S. diplomats couldn't confirm a report Wednesday by the Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy that prosecutors were working on an indictment against Wu.

An official of the Guangzhou prosecutors' office said it has not been given the case. The office would handle the case if he was charged with endangering state security, said the official, who would not give her name.

Wu was being investigated on suspicion that he spied for Taiwan, according to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing. China alleged that the scholars released last week also spied for Taiwan.

China and Taiwan split amid civil war in 1949, but Beijing still regards the island as part of its territory. The two rivals actively spy on each other.

A U.S. diplomat last visited Wu in detention on July 25.

According to pro-democracy activists, Wu, 46, is a former teacher at the ruling Communist Party's Central Party School in Beijing and a reporter. He reportedly left for the United States in 1988 and published a book about China's government following pro-democracy protests in 1989. He lived in New York City.

Meanwhile, one of the scholars freed last week, Qin Guangguang, left China on Wednesday, said a friend who asked not be identified. He said Qin telephoned him to say he was leaving but did not say where for.

A message on the telephone answering machine at Qin's home in Beijing said simply, ``We are not in Beijing.''

Qin, a Chinese citizen with residency rights in the United States, was freed on medical parole. He remained temporarily in China to visit family in the southwestern province of Sichuan.

The other two freed scholars, Gao Zhan and Li Shaomin, left last week for the United States.

Li was allowed to return this week to Hong Kong, the largely autonomous Chinese territory where he teaches marketing.