PROFESSOR convicted of spying in China plans to return to Hong Kong soon

Sunday, July 29th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

HONG KONG (AP) _ Chinese-born American professor Li Shaomin, convicted in China of spying for Taiwan, plans to return to Hong Kong by the fall, his father said Sunday.

Li Honglin said that his son will try to resume his work in Hong Kong for the new academic year, although he has not decided on a date.

``He will be returning to Hong Kong _ this is his home and his job is here,'' the elder Li told The Associated Press.

The elder Li, 76, a prominent liberal thinker and an adviser to the late Communist Party reformist leader Hu Yaobang, spent 10 months in jail after the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre for sympathizing with pro-democracy student protesters. He now lives with his son's family in Hong Kong.

Li said he could not confirm a news report in the English-language South China Morning Post that Li Shaomin is returning this week.

Li said his son's contract with Hong Kong's City University has not been terminated and believes his teaching schedule in the new academic year has been arranged.

Li Shaomin's has been teaching marketing at the university since 1996.

The elder Li declined to comment on his son's arrest in China but insisted that he was innocent.

``The spy accusation was absolutely ludicrous,'' Li said. ``He is a very introverted person, he is only a scholar.''

Li Shaomin, 44, traveled to the United States last week after he was deported from China on his conviction of damaging Chinese national security and spying for Taiwan.

He had lived in Hong Kong until the Chinese authorities arrested him in the neighboring city of Shenzhen on Feb. 25. Li obtained a Ph.D. in sociology from Princeton University in 1988 and became an American citizen in 1995.

Li said his son's return to Hong Kong will be ``good for China and Hong Kong, for our family and for Li Shaomin himself.''

Whether Hong Kong will allow Li Shaomin's return is another matter.

Although guaranteed a high degree of autonomy under the so-called ``one country, two systems'' arrangement set up after its return to China in 1997, the government still faces the possibility that Beijing might not like Li to return to his job at City University.

``The Li Shaomin case will test whether the 'one country, two systems' principle really works in Hong Kong,'' said the Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy in a statement.

``There is no reason to restrict his return to Hong Kong. If he is barred from coming back, there will be no 'one country, two systems' spirit at all in Hong Kong,'' said Mak Hoi-wah, a democracy activist and a professor at City University.

Both the government and the university have been carefully avoiding any hints of how they would deal with Li if he tries to return.

The Hong Kong government said in a statement Sunday that ``Li Shaomin is a foreign national. All matters related to his entry into Hong Kong will be handled by the immigration department in accordance with existing immigration policies and procedures.''