Sat, Nov 29, 2008 - Page 1 News List

Beijing executes man condemned as spy for Taiwan

AGENCIES , BEIJING

China has executed Wo Weihan (伍維漢), a 59-year-old businessman accused of spying for Taiwan, despite a last-ditch effort by his daughters to appeal for clemency through diplomatic channels, his family said yesterday.

Wo’s execution was confirmed by the Austrian embassy in Beijing, said Michael Rolufs, his son-in-law, who arrived in Beijing earlier this week with his wife for a last visit.

Wo was sentenced to death in May last year and his final appeal was denied on Feb. 29 but the scheme had been delayed pending a review.

Ran Chen said she visited her father at a Beijing court on Thursday, their first meeting since he was detained almost four years ago.

Wo’s daughters are Austrian citizens and Vienna had been pursuing the case on their behalf.

Human rights groups and diplomats from the EU and the US also appealed on his behalf, contending that he did not receive a fair trial and was given an overly harsh sentence.

A copy of Wo’s conviction said his alleged crimes included revealing the health status of an unnamed high-ranking Chinese official. China considers information about the health of its leaders to be a state secret.

Wo was also convicted of passing on data about missile control systems, information Chen said had been published in a magazine and was only later classified as secret.

Wo was accused of passing the information through a middle man to a group linked to the Taiwanese intelligence agencies.

China’s Foreign Ministry said Wo had violated the law and his trial had been fair.

“Just because Wo Weihan has foreign relatives does not mean his case should be handled differently,” spokesman Qin Gang (秦剛) told a news conference.

The US yesterday strongly condemned the execution.

“We are deeply disturbed and dismayed by reports that the Chinese government has carried out the death penalty against Wo Weihan,” Susan Stevenson, a spokeswoman at the US embassy in Beijing said.

She said that Wo’s arrest and trial had fallen short of international standards for due process.

“Reportedly Mr Wo did not have access to legal counsel until after the prosecuting officials completed their investigation,” Stevenson said.

“His confession was coerced and the charges against him were questionable,” she said.

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