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US geologist jailed for eight years in China

world Updated: Jul 05, 2010 11:59 IST

A US geologist was sentenced to eight years in jail in China on Monday on state secrets charges related to a database about China's oil industry, a US official and a rights group said.

US Ambassador Jon Huntsman, who attended Monday's sentencing in Beijing, expressed dismay over the punishment for Xue Feng and will continue to discuss the case with Chinese officials, US embassy spokeswoman Susan Stevenson said.

"The US government has concerns over Dr Xue's wellbeing. We remain concerned with his rights to due process under Chinese law," Stevenson told AFP.

"The protection of US citizens overseas is our highest priority.We will continue to visit him and discuss his case with the Chinese government."

Xue, a naturalised US citizen, was detained in November 2007 on charges of attempting to acquire and sell state secrets a database related to China's oil industry, according to the Dui Hua Foundation, a rights group.

At the time of his arrest, the 44-year-old Xue was working for the US energy and engineering consulting firm IHS, Dui Hua said in a statement.

Both Xue and IHS have stated that they believed that the database was a commercially available product. After Xue purchased the database, it was subsequently classified as a state secret, the statement said.

His arrest and drawn-out trial has cast a spotlight on the pitfalls of doing business in China, especially for those born in China who have been educated abroad and taken on a foreign nationality.

Australian national Stern Hu, an executive with the mining giant Rio Tinto, was sentenced to 10 years in prison in March on bribery and trade secrets charges, in a case that raised hackles in Canberra.

US President Barack Obama discussed Xue's case with Chinese President Hu Jintao during a visit to China in November, according to Dui Hua.