Jeff Gillis, husband of Sandy Phan-Gillis, says that his wife had been held in China for the past six months charged with treason. He said he intend going public about her circumstances before the state visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to the US.
China confirmed her detention in a regular briefing on Tuesday. But her family denies the allegation of stealing state secrets. Save Sandy, a website is campaigning for her release from the so-called “residential detention but her husband says she had been moved to different place.
Mrs Phan-Gillis, a naturalised American born in Vietnam, was detained in March, during a trade visit to promote the Texan city of Houston. According to authorities, she was suspected of carrying out anti-national activities and is being investigated by relevant departments.
Mrs Phan-Gillis was President of the Houston Shenzhen Sister City Association and consulted for Chinese and US businesses. She was detained when she was travelling with Ed Gonzalez, who led the trade delegation on behalf of Houston’s mayor and several US and Chinese business person.
Mr Gonzalez told the BBC the trip was normal the sequence of events as they left China as “bizarre”. Their travel around China for about a week was normal until they reached the border between Guangdong and Macau, in Zhuhai, on 19 March where Mrs Phan-Gillis was separated from the group and the last message sent from her phone saying “something to the effect of ‘I’m going to stay behind, to take care of personal matters’.
Mr Gillis had been informed by the US consulate that his wife had been detained, accused of stealing state secrets and consular officials have been able to visit Mrs Phan-Gillis periodically, to check up on her health, and to pass on messages. However, the US embassy in Beijing would not comment on the story.
The following Westerners have been detained in China in recent years:
- Chinese-American geologist Feng Xue was released after seven years of imprisonment in China.
- Australian national and Rio Tinto mining company executive Stern Hu, also of Chinese origin, was sentenced to 10 years in prison on trade secrets and bribery charges.
- A Canadian couple in the Chinese border town of Dandong were accused of spying last year. The wife was released on bail, but the husband was formally detained on criminal charges.