Beijing Court Upholds Eight-Year Sentence for American Geologist Xue Feng

February 23, 2011

On February 18, 2011, a Beijing court upheld the eight-year prison sentence of Dr. Xue Feng, a naturalized American citizen convicted in July 2010 of trafficking state secrets. Chinese officials alleged that Xue trafficked state secrets when he helped the American company he worked for purchase commercial information on oil wells in China. Xue's case has been marred by numerous allegations of procedural abuses, with Chinese officials most recently denying a U.S. official access to Xue's appeal hearing in November 2010.

According to Western news media, the Beijing High People's Court upheld the eight-year prison sentence of the American geologist Xue Feng on February 18, 2011, (Associated Press, 2/18/11; New York Times, 2/18/11; Wall Street Journal, 2/18/11). Chinese officials took Xue into custody in late 2007 and the Beijing No. 1 Intermediate People's Court handed down its sentence in July 2010. As the Commission previously has reported, Xue's case has been marred by numerous procedural abuses, including torture allegations, denial of U.S. consular access in violation of a U.S.-China consular convention, and violations of China's Criminal Procedure Law in the lengths of time Xue was held during various stages of the criminal process. Chinese officials have wide latitude to declare information a state secret. The Commission previously has reported on both the scope of state secrets provisions and commercial secrets provisions in Chinese law. The state secret that Xue allegedly trafficked was commercial information that officials declared to be a state secret only after Xue had helped his company purchase it for commercial purposes.

Most recently, the New York Times reported that Chinese officials denied a request by a U.S. Embassy official to attend Xue's appeal hearing in November 2010, according a November 30, 2010, article. According to Article 35(5) of the U.S.-PRC Consular Convention of 1980, a U.S. consular official "shall be permitted" to attend a trial or other legal proceeding against a U.S. national.

For another discussion on Xue's case and information on China's recently amended state secrets law, see Overview―Nexus Between Human Rights and Commercial Rule of Law and Section II―Freedom of Expression in the CECC 2010 Annual Report.