Man’s sentence for oil research in China confounds authorities
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.