Cover Story

China's most wanted

Issue: "Trial and terror," Sept. 1, 2001

Without academic freedom, China will never fully develop," predicted China's esteemed premier Zhou En Lai in 1954. He obviously did not know about the Internet. China's current leadership has taken a swat at the growing trade of information via computer technology, making the transmission of "secret" or "reactionary" material a capital crime last January. A crackdown on everyone from webmasters to Internet cafés coincided with publication in the United States of The Tiananmen Papers. The tome of once-classified documents reveals in blow-by-blow detail the decision of China's communist leadersÑ"the elders"Ñto use force in Tiananmen Square to bring student democrats to heel in 1989. Reputations of China's current leadership, including supreme leader Jiang Zemin, suffer most at the hands of the documentation. Behind the present crackdown on Internet users and academic researchers is that leadership's quest to uncover the true identity of Zhang Liang, the mysterious "compiler" of the papers. In the book's preface, he claims to be a Party leader, interested in reform from the inside. His prestige and documentation so impressed three eminent American SinologistsÑColumbia University's Andrew Nathan, Princeton's Perry Link, and Berkeley's Orville SchellÑthat they signed on as editors. A partial tally of the fallout is summarized below.

  • Gao Zhan, age 39, American University researcher and teacher and permanent U.S. resident, detained Feb. 11 in Beijing, charged with accepting money from a foreign intelligence agency and participating in espionage activities in China, sentenced to 10 years in China. On July 24, she was released on medical parole and expelled to the United States.
  • Li Shaomin, age 44, teacher at City University of Hong Kong, U.S. citizen since 1995, arrested Feb. 25 at the Hong Kong border, charged with espionage for applying for a grant to a Taiwan think tank, convicted July 14, and deported to Hong Kong.
  • Qu Wei, age unknown, sentenced in July to 13 years in jail for providing "national secrets and intelligence" to Gao Zhan and Li Shaomin, awaiting appeal of that verdict.
  • Qin Guangguang, age unknown, a pharmaceutical expert and permanent U.S. resident, convicted of spying in July and sentenced to 10 years, released on medical parole and returned to the United States in August.
  • Shi Xianmin, age 47, friend of Li Shaomin, researcher and teacher at a Communist Party school, detained in Guangzhou in April.
  • Xu Zerong, age unknown, an Oxford University scholar and researcher in Guangdong, arrested July 2000 on unknown charges, his current situation is unknown.
  • Wu Jianmen, age 46, former China journalist, arrested May 26 in Shenzhen for "taking money from Taiwan spy organs and entering the Chinese mainland to gather intelligence," suspected of contributing to The Tiananmen Papers. A U.S. citizen, he is likely to be tried and expelled before President Bush's October visit to China.
  • Huang Qi, age 36, computer engineer and webmaster, detained June 2000 and charged with "instigation to subvert state power" for posting democracy movement material on his website, reportedly beaten September 2000, trial suspended Feb. 13 because of illness and again June 27.
  • Li Hongmin, age unknown, businessman from central Hunan, detained July 2001 for e-mailing Chinese-language versions of The Tiananmen Papers to friends.

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Mindy Belz
Mindy Belz

Mindy travels to the far corners of the globe as the editor of WORLD and lives with her family in the mountains of western North Carolina. Follow Mindy on Twitter @mcbelz.

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