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China court convicts US geologist for selling state secrets

Beijing's No. 1 Intermediate People's Court Monday sentenced US geologist Xue Feng [advocacy website] to eight years in prison for collecting intelligence and illegally providing state secrets. Xue was also fined 200,000 yuan. The court stated that Xue received a database which contained the coordinates for oil wells owned by the China National Petroleum Corporation [official website] while conducting research for US-based IHS energy. Upon discovery, Xue agreed to sell the database to IHS [AP report], which the court ruled was illegal under China's controversial state secrets [JURIST news archive] law. The database was allegedly made available to the public and only considered classified after its sale. Xue was arrested over two and a half years ago and was allegedly tortured during his incarceration. The US Embassy released a statement [Guardian report] on Monday urging the Chinese government to release Xue and immediately deport him back to the US.

China's state secrets law has frequently been criticized for alleged overbreadth. In November 2009, rights activist Huang Qi was sentenced to three years in prison [JURIST report] for violating the state secrets law, when he discussed how some schools collapsed after the Sichuan province earthquake [BBC backgrounder] in 2008 because of shoddy construction. In March four employees of Australian mining company Rio Tinto [corporate website] of receiving bribes and stealing commercial secrets [JURIST report] during stalled iron ore price negotiations, and sentenced to a range of 7 to 14 years in prison. In April the Chinese government revised the state secrets law [JURIST report] to require Internet and telecommunications companies to inform on customers who share state secrets. China began a review of its state secrets law last June, after concerns were raised regarding Internet filtering software [JURIST reports] on computers sold in that country.

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Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

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