August 19, 2005

China holds US citizen accused of spying for Taiwan

By Lindsay Beck

BEIJING (Reuters) - China has detained a U.S. citizen on
suspicion of spying for ideological foe Taiwan, keeping him
under house arrest without charge for nearly three months, the
U.S. embassy in Beijing said on Friday.

Chinese-born Xie Chunren, 56, was arrested in the
southwestern province of Sichuan on May 31 after he traveled
there from the United States, the embassy spokeswoman said.

"He is currently under residential surveillance under
suspicion of espionage for Taiwan," she said.

China claims the self-ruled island of Taiwan as its own and
both sides have been spying on each other since their split at
the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949.

The charges have come to light just weeks before Chinese
President Hu Jintao makes his first trip to Washington as
leader, adding new frictions to ties already strained over
issues from China's military build-up to textile trade.

Xie's son said his father was not a spy.

"I think it's a mistake," Xie Yuanyang said by telephone
from his home in New Jersey. "He's so busy running his business
he doesn't even have time to watch movies."

Xie Chunren traveled frequently to China for work related
to his business selling nutritional supplements.

The United States recognizes the mainland as China's sole
legitimate government -- the "one-China" policy -- but in a
deliberately ambiguous piece of foreign policy is also obliged
by law to help Taiwan defend itself.

The U.S. embassy spokeswoman said officials from the
consulate in the Sichuan capital Chengdu had visited Xie three
times since his detention. His son said that was the only
outside contact he had.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry said the case was handled in
accordance with the law.

"Xie Chunren is suspected of engaging in activities
endangering the security of the People's Republic of China,"
the ministry said in a statement.

Xie, who lives in New Jersey, is the latest in a string of
Chinese-born American citizens to fall foul of Chinese

David Ji, the co-founder and chairman of U.S. electronics
distributor Apex Digital Inc., was arrested in late 2004 for
check fraud in a dispute with Changhong Electric Appliance Co.
Ltd. He was released from custody earlier this week.

Last August, Beijing accused David Dong, a Chinese-American
also known as Dong Wei, of spying for Taiwan. Dong has been
held since 2003 when he traveled to the southern city of
Guangzhou on a business trip.

Chinese media have said he was recruited by Taiwan military
intelligence and received a monthly salary to steal state

Xie's son speculated his father's detention was related to
Dong's case but added, "since nobody can talk to my father, no
one knows for sure."

He said his father was a distant acquaintance of Dong's,
but that the two were not friends.

"Right now we're just hoping he gets released. I don't know
what kind of evidence they have," he said.