A UN panel says China has arbitrarily detained an American woman in violation of international human rights norms, bringing her case back into public attention ahead of a visit to Beijing by UN Secretary General Ban Ki- moon this week.
International business consultant Phan “Sandy” Phan- Gillis, 56, has been in detention in China for more than a year, accused of stealing state secrets.
The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention says she hasn’t been brought before judicial authorities or given access to legal assistance, in an opinion released last week.
The San Francisco-based human rights group The Dui Hua Foundation said yesterday that it was the first time that the working group in its 25-year history had deemed an American citizen to have been arbitrarily detained by China.
A detention is deemed arbitrary if it has no legal basis or legal rights are ignored.
Ban is scheduled to meet President Xi Jinping in Beijing tomorrow and Premier Li Keqiang on Friday, though it isn’t clear if Ban plans to raise Phan-Gillis’ case in talks with the leaders.
The UN working group says that the Chinese government told it that Phan-Gillis is charged with “assisting external parties to steal national intelligence.” The UN group called for her to be released or given proper assistance by a legal counsel.
China’s foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei, in a faxed response to questions, said: “All of Sandy Phan-Gillis’ rights have been fully guaranteed, and she has been treated well.”
He urged the UN working group to “perform its duties impartially, respect China’s judicial sovereignty and stop groundless accusations against the relevant Chinese authorities’ lawful handling of the case.”
The US Embassy in China had no immediate comment.
Phan-Gillis, a Vietnamese-American of Chinese descent, often worked as an intermediary in ventures between Chinese and US business interests.