Woman pleads guilty in illegal sales to China

Human rights activist sold microprocessors to Chinese military

November 27, 2003|By COX NEWS SERVICE

WASHINGTON - A Chinese woman once hailed as a human rights hero pleaded guilty yesterday to illegally selling advanced technology to China's military.

Zhan Gao, a permanent U.S. resident, became a cause celebre two years ago when she was arrested while visiting China and jailed on charges of spying for Taiwan.

Gao was allowed to return to the United States after five months, but only after intense pressure from human rights activists and the U.S. government, including a phone call to Chinese President Jiang Zemin from President Bush.

In U.S. district court in Alexandria, Va., yesterday, Gao admitted she had exported to China $540,000 worth of microprocessors that can be used for weapons fire control systems, radar data processing and other military purposes.

She also pleaded guilty to tax fraud for failing to report the earnings on her 2000 income tax return.

Her husband, Xue Donghua, a naturalized U.S. citizen who two years ago took their 5-year-old son to Capitol Hill to urge senators to help win the release of his wife from China, pleaded guilty yesterday to a lesser charge of tax evasion.

Gao faces up to 13 years in prison when she is sentenced in March. U.S. prosecutors indicated that they would seek a shorter term.

Under national security laws, exporters are required to gain permission from U.S. authorities for sales of certain technology that could be of military use. In her plea, Gao admitted that she had knowingly made the illegal transfers.

Documents filed by U.S. Attorney Paul J. McNulty indicated that Gao had set up a series of sham companies in the late 1990s and had exported the microprocessors in the fall of 2000.

The development stunned Gao's former supporters at American University, where Gao was a faculty fellow from 2000 until the spring of 2002. University officials in 2001 had launched an all-out effort to enlist the Bush administration, including Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, and members of Congress in the campaign to free her from the Chinese prison.

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