U.S.-based Chinese scholar Gao Zhan spoke Monday of the psychological “torture” she endured during five-and-a-half months of detention in mainland China as she battled charges of spying for Taiwan.
Gao, convicted of espionage and expelled from mainland China last month, said in an interview on Voice of America radio that the worst part of her ordeal was being separated from her five-year-old son Andrew and husband Xue Donghua.
“That was both emotional and psychological torture for me, even though I did not suffer any physical torture in my detention,” she said in the interview conducted in Chinese.
Gao said she was worried her relatives still in mainland China may suffer reprisals from Beijing authorities over her case.
“Well, what I am afraid of is that they will do something to my family back there,” she said, according to a VOA translation of her remarks.
Gao said mainland Chinese authorities should think twice before arresting anyone else on what she said were false charges.
“My feelings of the mainland Chinese government? I think they have got a lesson to learn. I mean, next time they set out to arrest someone else, they should give it a second thought.”
Gao, a 39 year-old U.S. permanent resident and sociologist at American University in Washington, was detained at Beijing airport after a family vacation in February.
Her husband and son were released after a few weeks in detention. Gao, however, was charged with spying for Taiwan, convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison.
She was released on medical grounds by the mainland Chinese government on July 26, just days before U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell’s visit to Beijing.
She had hoped to become a U.S. citizen in a ceremony last week, but plans were canceled at the last minute.
Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee said Friday that immigration authorities were reviewing paperwork from mainland China in Gao’s citizenship application file.
“We expect to see her sworn in very soon,” said the congresswoman, the ranking Democrat on a House of Representative committee that oversees immigration matters.
Gao also fielded listeners’ calls from across mainland China, insisting on her innocence of the espionage charges, saying she had been caught in possession of scholarly materials that were not marked secret and were not state secrets.
She did say however that many of the articles in her possession were highly critical of mainland China.
Gao also told callers, identified only by their surname and province of residence in mainland China, that she would fight for other academics held in the mainland, who did not have the advantage of links to the United States.
Her case and those of several other detained scholars with strong U.S. ties further antagonized an already fractious PRC-U.S. relationship.