American Teacher Detained in China

Friday, March 30th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

BEIJING (AP) - China has detained an American business professor from Hong Kong, the second academic with U.S. ties picked up in the past six weeks, a human rights group said Friday.

Li Shaomin, who teaches at City University of Hong Kong, was detained Feb. 25 after crossing the border into China, said Lu Siqing, director of the Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy. Lu said Chinese authorities have not told Li's family why he was detained.

The U.S. Embassy in Beijing confirmed that an American was detained in late February. It declined to give his identity or any other information, citing U.S. privacy laws.

The Foreign Ministry and security officials in Beijing and Shenzhen, the southern border city where Lu said Li was detained, refused to comment.

Li, a naturalized U.S. citizen, was detained less than a week after Gao Zhan, a political scientist at American University in Washington, was prevented from leaving Beijing after she and her family came for a visit.

Gao, a Chinese citizen who has been accused of spying, was detained Feb. 11.

Li earned a doctorate in sociology from Princeton University in 1988 and has taught at Beijing University, according to a Web site for City University. It says he has also worked as a U.N. adviser to the Chinese government.

Li's wife told City University at the end of February that he was missing but did not request help, said Betty Chan, director of the school's public affairs office.

``Mrs. Li did not explain to us the details of her husband's situation,'' Chan said. ``It's not convenient for us to do anything. We have to respect his family's wishes.''

Li's father, Li Honglin, was a prominent liberal scholar who was accused by Beijing of having a secret role in the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests that were crushed on June 4, 1989, according to Lu of the Information Center. He said the elder Li, 76, now lives in Hong Kong.

Li's mother, who lives in Beijing, has tried in vain to find out her 48-year-old son's whereabouts, Lu said.

A U.S. Embassy spokesman in Beijing, speaking on customary condition of anonymity, said a U.S. diplomat had visited the detained American and was in regular contact with his family.

Gao's case has caused a diplomatic uproar because Chinese authorities also held her 5-year-old son, a U.S. citizen, for 26 days without informing the American Embassy, as required by treaty.

Gao's son, Andrew, and her husband, who also was detained, were later allowed to return to the United States. They were detained at Beijing's airport as they were ending a visit to China.

The United States has appealed for Gao's release on humanitarian grounds and officially protested the treatment of her son.