US Calls on China To Release Jailed Geologist

The United States is calling on China to immediately release an American geologist who was sentenced to eight years in prison on charges of spying and collecting state secrets.

A U.S. State Department spokesman said Tuesday the United States is extremely concerned by the sentence of Xue Feng and appealed to China to grant him a humanitarian release.

Earlier, the U.S. embassy in Beijing said it was "dismayed" by Monday's sentence, which included a $30,000 fine.

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman (Qin Gang) rejected the criticism Tuesday saying that Xue's rights are fully guaranteed and that the case is a domestic matter.

Xue, who is 44-years old, was born in China and is a naturalized American. He has been held since late 2007 after negotiating the sale of an oil industry database to his employer at the time, U.S.-based consultant firm IHS.

Industry and rights groups say the material in the database was openly available, and that the law used to prosecute Xue is vague.

Three Chinese colleagues were sentenced with Xue, who obtained a database containing detailed information on the operations of state-owned China National Petroleum Corporation.

Foreign companies have long complained that Chinese state secrets laws are too broad. Draft regulations distributed in April would specifically protect the business secrets of major state companies.

Xue has complained of being tortured while in detention, saying he was burned on the arms with cigarettes.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters