China Deports American Woman Convicted on Spying Charge
China has deported an American businesswoman convicted and sentenced on a spying charge, and she arrived in the United States on Friday, her husband said.
The deportation ended uncertainty about the fate of the Houston businesswoman, Phan Phan-Gillis, known as Sandy, who was sentenced on Tuesday by a court in southern China to three and a half years in prison on an espionage charge. The judge said Ms. Phan-Gillis would be deported, but left unclear whether she would have to serve her sentence first.
On Friday, however, Ms. Phan-Gillis’s husband, Jeff Gillis, who has campaigned to overturn the spying charge and to win her freedom, said she had been put on a flight from Guangzhou in southern China to Los Angeles, and had arrived there that day.
“Many of Sandy’s friends and family members have been crying tears of joy throughout the day,” Mr. Gillis said in an email. He continued to reject the accusation that his wife had been a spy for the American authorities, and said her conviction was manifestly unjust.
“Sandy was not allowed to speak with her lawyers for well over a year,” Mr. Gillis said. “China State Security used torture to force Sandy to make a false confession,” he said, echoing Ms. Phan-Gillis’s earlier statements about her treatment.
Before her trial, Ms. Phan-Gillis had denied the accusations, but in court this past week, she said she was guilty, possibly as part of deal to win her release.
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Chinese security officers detained Ms. Phan-Gillis, a 57-year-old business consultant, in March 2015, when she was accompanying a delegation of city officials and businesspeople from Houston, her hometown. She was held in detention for six months and not allowed to see a lawyer for 14 months. A United Nations human rights committee condemned her detention as a violation of international law.
Mr. Gillis initially hoped that the allegations against his wife would be dropped quietly after an investigation, but after she was charged in September 2015, he started a public campaign to fight the charge. The Chinese authorities accused Ms. Phan-Gillis of collecting information and recruiting sources from 20 years ago or longer.
The Dui Hua Foundation, an organization based in San Francisco that works to improve human rights in China, also sought Ms. Phan-Gillis’s release, and it said Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson had added his influence to the effort.
“Negotiations to secure the release of Ms. Phan-Gillis intensified during Secretary Tillerson’s visit to Beijing in March 2017,” the group said in a statement about her release, adding that the White House had helped the State Department “in bringing the negotiations to a successful conclusion.”