US businesswoman accused of spying in China to go on trial later this month
Husband of Sandy Phan-Gillis wants Barack Obama to raise the case during the G20 summit in Hangzhou
China has set a September 19 trial date for an American businesswoman accused of spying, charges her husband in Texas says are false.
The US State Department has also expressed concerns about her welfare.
Sandy Phan-Gillis, who was born in Vietnam and has Chinese ancestry, was arrested on suspicion of spying by the Chinese authorities in March 2015 while visiting the country as part of a trade delegation from Houston.
Her husband Jeff Gillis accused the Chinese authorities in a statement on Thursday of suppressing evidence that would weaken the case against her. “The charges are absolutely false,” he said.
He added he wants US President Barack Obama to ask for her release when he attends the G20 summit this weekend in Hangzhou.
The announcement of a trial date renewed attention on her case just ahead of the president’s trip to China.
Obama is scheduled to hold meetings with President Xi Jinping on Saturday.
Gillis said a main contention of the charge against his wife was that she had gone on a spying mission to China in 1996.
He said her US passport showed she had not travelled to China at that time and accused the Chinese Consulate in Houston of refusing to acknowledge that there were no entry or exit visas from China in that passport.
This, he said, prevented her passport from being used as evidence at her trial.
The Chinese Embassy in Washington and the Chinese Consulate in Houston did not respond to requests for comment.
Beijing officials said this week that Phan-Gillis, now a US citizen, had been formally charged with spying.
“We continue to monitor her case closely,” State Department spokesman John Kirby said at a press briefing in Washington.
He added that officers from the US consulate in Beijing had visited her on a monthly basis since she was detained.
“We have repeatedly pressed the Chinese authorities to provide further details of the case and to give our consular officers full and unrestricted access to her as required by the Vienna convention.
“We urge the government of China to review and consider seriously the ... views expressed by the UN working group on arbitrary detention, including its recommendation to release Ms. Phan-Gillis.”
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters earlier this week: “Based on our understanding, Phan-Gillis, because of her suspected crimes of espionage, has been charged according to law by the relevant Chinese department.”