Chinese defend scientist spy

April 3, 1998

A Taiwan-born scientist sentenced to a year in a California community corrections facility after admitting he spied for China was the subject of "persecution" by the justice department, according to the Chinese Academy of Sciences, China's top academic body.

The Chinese-American scientist, Peter H. Lee, was accused of providing China with "some detailed data related to the use of lasers to simulate nuclear detonations", in 1985. Dr Lee is also alleged to have revealed classified information related to his company's work when he presented a lecture to Chinese scientists in 1997.

Dr Lee, who worked at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, and then at TRW in California, has regularly lectured as a visitor and attended international academic conferences at Chinese universities, colleges and research institutes since the 1980s. "These were normal, international academic exchange activities," the academy insisted in an open letter to scientists in the US.

"Ulterior motives were involved, to interpret these normal, academic exchanges as having other explanations."

Sino-US relations have been improving of late, following a war of words - particularly over human rights - in recent years., `the Chinese government wants to be seen to be supporting Taiwanese pressure on the academic's behalf, but does not want the issue to damage relations between Chinese and American scientists or disturb the broader improvement and development of Sino-US ties.

Dr Lee admitted sharing information with Chinese scientists during lectures he gave in the People's Republic of China in 1985 and 1997. The information, later declassified, related to the use of lasers to create microscopic nuclear explosions.

Dr Lee said he had wanted to help his Chinese counterparts and to enhance his reputation in their country.

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