chinese government sentences american geologist to eight years for stealing state secrets

In Shanghai, American geologist Xue Feng, who has been detained by the Chinese government for the past 2 1/2 years, was sentenced Monday to eight years in prison for stealing state secrets: China sentences American geologist to 8 years for stealing state secrets.

Xue, who works for a U.S. energy consulting firm, was charged with trying to buy a databse that reportedly showed the location and condition of oil and wells belonging to China's government-owned National Petroleum Corp.
In other countries, such information would normally not be considered particularly sensitive. But China in recent years has shown an increasing willingness to use its catchall state secrecy laws -- usually invoked in matters of national security -- to protect what it considers the trade secrets of its state-run companies, particularly in the all-important energy sector. In March, Stern Hu, an Australian working for the mining firm Rio Tinto, was convicted in Shanghai of stealing commercial secrets and bribery relating to China's iron ore purchases; Hu received a 10-year sentence.

Xue, who was arrested in November 2007, had said he was tortured while in detention, including being burned on his arms with cigarettes and bashed in the head. His case had attracted high-level U.S. attention, with President Obama raising his concerns when he visited China last year. The case was a test of the administration's "quiet diplomacy" approach of bringing up human rights issues in China.
Xue's case has been kept deliberately low-profile, apparently partly out of respect for his family in Texas, who feared that making him a public figure could further antagonize China's leaders.

American officials reportedly met with Xue in jail nearly 30 times and were in the Beijing courtroom where he was sentenced Monday. U.S. Ambassador Jon Huntsman is calling for Xue to be given a "humanitarian release" and deported to the United States. More here: Geologist's Sentence Is Questioned.

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