The U.S. Ambassador to China, Jon Huntsman, says he’s disappointed by the eight-year sentence handed down to a U.S. geologist.
Xue Feng was convicted of attempting to obtain and traffic state secrets, a year after his trial ended.
A naturalized U.S. citizen born in China, Xue was arrested in November 2007 after negotiating the sale of an oil industry database to his employer at the time, a Colorado-based consultancy, IHS Energy—now called IHS Inc.
According to rights group Dui Hua Foundation, the database was classified as a state secret only after it was sold. And the President of the Emerging Asia Consultancy, Adil Husain says this means Xue was tried retroactively.
[Adil Husain, President of Emerging Asia Consultancy]:
"The geologist was, it appears, essentially performing his job duties and collecting information about the Chinese oil sector. And at the time that information was collected and sold to his employers. This was not considered a secret or a state secret or something that was illegal. So this was retroactively applied to the situation and the charge is, that he was tried on, was actually retroactively applied.”
Xue Feng’s case is bringing up more concerns over the Chinese regime’s use of vague state-secrets laws to protect commercial interests of major state-owned corporations. Last year, four employees of Australian mining giant, Rio Tinto were detained in China for stealing state-secrets during iron-ore contract talks.
In April, the Chinese regime defined what constitutes commercial secrets, in an attempt to codify what it considers secret. But Husain says that can cover a wide range of possibilities.