Mainland China confirmed on Friday it was investigating a U.S. citizen of Chinese origin suspected of espionage, and a human rights group said his detention was linked to a controversial book on the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre.
Wu Jianmin was detained on April 8 in the southern city of Shenzhen and has since been held in nearby Guangzhou on suspicion of spying for Taiwan, the U.S. State Department said on Thursday.
He is the latest in a string of American nationals and residents to be detained in China this year, prompting the State Department to warn critics of Beijing and other visitors to China they risked detention by the Chinese secret police.
Beijing said the U.S. warning was an irresponsible attempt to “sow the seeds of discontent between China and Chinese Americans” and demanded that Washington “correct its mistake immediately”.
“Wu Jianmin was suspected of being involved in collecting information which endangered state security,” a mainland Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman told Reuters.
“At present, relevant Chinese departments are investigating this according to relevant laws,” she said.
She declined to say for whom Wu was suspected of spying, or to give further details.
But a Hong Kong-based human rights group said Wu was suspected of contributing to “The Tiananmen Papers” — a book claiming to reveal internal debates that led to the bloody 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy protests around Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.
“Our center has learned that U.S. citizen Wu Jianmin is suspected to have leaked facts about the June Fourth crackdown and was arrested in Shenzhen on April 8,” said the Information Center for Human Rights & Democracy.
Wu, 46, taught at a Communist Party school and was a journalist for a state newspaper in southern China from 1986 to 1988, the rights group said.
He later wrote a book about the Tiananmen crackdown, in which hundreds, perhaps thousands, of civilians were killed.
Washington has expressed concern about the detention of Wu, another U.S. national and two Chinese citizens resident in the United States.
The case adds to the deep distrust between China and the United States as Washington prepares to announce next week what weapons it will sell to Taiwan, which Beijing regards as a renegade province.