American held by China

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An American woman was detained by Chinese police for investigation related to alleged theft of state secrets, Monitor correspondent Takashi Oka writes. Sources who know the detainee identified her as Lisa Wichser, a graduate student pursuing a PhD in agricultural economics at the University of Denver. It is understood that she recently applied to marry a Chinese research worker at the Institute of Economics of the Academy of Social Sciences.

This is believed to be the first time since the end of the Cultural Revolution in 1976 that a foreign citizen has been detained by Chinese authorities on what amounts to suspicion of spying. Detention is not arrest, and no formal charges have been laid against Miss Wichser.

She was apparently detained at 1 a.m. May 28, local time, when she was called out of her room in the Friendship Hotel compound on the pretext that there was a cable for her. When she saw agents of the public security bureau awaiting her in the office, she reportedly tried to flee but was handcuffed and taken away.

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US Sen. Howard H. Baker Jr., the Senate majority leader, who is visiting China, is said to have been told of the detention before his meeting with Vice-Chairman Deng Xiaoping June 1. He is to hold a press conference June 2. So far he has said nothing publicly about the case.

The US embassy was able to see Miss Wichser May 31 in accordance with the consular convention between the United States and China. A spokesman said the embassy would continue to take vigorous action within the terms of the consular convention to ensure that she received fair treatment and protection of her rights under Chinese law.

According to Monitor writer Frederic Moritz, Miss Wichsler's political science professor, China specialist Prof. Peter Van Ness, as ''one of the best students I have ever had.'' He described her as an active member of the US-China Peoples Friendship Association, committed to improving relations between China and the US. In the US she had often hosted visitors from China.

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