Man’s sen­tence for oil re­search in China con­founds au­thor­i­ties

Austin American-Statesman - - TUESDAYBRIEFING -

BEI­JING — Amer­i­can of­fi­cials re­acted with dis­may and puz­zle­ment Mon­day to the eight-year prison sen­tence im­posed on a Hous­ton-area ge­ol­o­gist who sold a data­base on China’s oil in­dus­try to a Colorado con­sult­ing com­pany.

In pro­nounc­ing Xue Feng, 45, guilty of spying and col­lect­ing state se­crets, the Bei­jing No. 1 In­ter­me­di­ate Peo­ple’s Court said his ac­tions “en­dan­gered our coun­try’s na­tional se­cu­rity.” It said Xue re­ceived doc­u­ments about on­shore wells be­long­ing to China Na­tional Petroleum Corp. and a sub­sidiary. That in­for­ma­tion, it said, was sold to IHS En­ergy, the U.S. con­sul­tancy Xue worked for.

“I can’t de­scribe how I feel. It’s def­i­nitely un­ac­cept­able,” Xue’s wife, Nan Kang, said by phone, sob­bing, from their home out­side Hous­ton where she lives with their two chil­dren. U.S. Am­bas­sador Jon Hunts­man called for Xue to be freed. Xue’s sen­tence punc­tu­ates a case that has dragged on for more than 2½ years and is likely to alarm for­eign busi­nesses un­sure when nor­mal busi­ness ac­tiv­i­ties else­where might con­flict with China’s vague se­cu­rity laws.

“This is a very harsh sen­tence,” said John Kamm, an Amer­i­can hu­man rights cam­paigner whom the State Depart­ment turned to for help last year to lobby for Xue’s re­lease. “It’s a huge dis­ap­point­ment and will send very real shivers up the spines of busi­nesses that do busi­ness in China.”

Court doc­u­ments said Xue de­fended him­self dur­ing the closed-door trial, ar­gu­ing that the in­for­ma­tion he gath­ered “is data that the oil sec­tor in coun­tries around the world make pub­lic.”

Xue Feng worked for U.S. com­pany in China.

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