BEIJING, Nov 23, 2000 -- (Agence France Presse) China charged a U.S. resident with spying at a secret trial in Beijing Thursday after she exposed the detention of members of the Falun Gong spiritual movement in mental hospitals, a rights group said.
Teng Chunyan, 37, was charged with "prying into state intelligence for overseas organizations" at Beijing Intermediate People's Court in a closed three-hour trial, the Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy said.
A verdict is expected to be announced in a week and Teng faces a minimum of 10 years in jail if convicted, the Hong Kong-based center said.
Teng, who is married to a U.S. citizen, is the first overseas member of the Falun Gong to be tried in China and only the second U.S. green card holder, the center said.
The other is Hua Di, a former missile expert and researcher at Stamford University in California. He was arrested in 1998 after he returned to China for a family funeral and charged with leaking state secrets for writing an article about China's missile program.
His case is now in limbo after the Beijing Supreme People's Court earlier this year overturned his conviction and 15-year jail sentence, saying the ruling was based on unclear information.
Teng's trial has serious ramifications for rights groups probing human rights violations as the government is now considering information about its treatment of the Falun Gong to be a state secret.
Teng, a New York-based Chinese medicine doctor who emigrated to the United States eight years ago, entered China through the southern city of Shenzhen in March and for seven months lost communication with her family, the center said.
It was only in October that her family in China was informed that she was being held in Beijing's Banbuqiao detention center and that the state was prosecuting her.
Teng is accused of stealing, prying into, buying and illegally providing state intelligence, according to an indictment obtained by the rights group.
The indictment said Teng led foreign journalists to a village in the Fangshan district of Beijing on February 7 where they illegally interviewed Falun Gong members detained in a mental hospital.
The case involves some 50 villagers who were locked up in the mental hospital in January to prevent them from going to Beijing's Tiananmen Square to protest the banning of their organization.
In March, Teng returned to Fangshan and provided a digital camera for a man to take pictures of the detained Falun Gong members to document their detention and hunger strike, the indictment said.
She later forwarded the pictures to foreign news organizations by email.
"This information was published in overseas relevant media and this made very serious circumstances," the indictment said.
A New York-based Falun Gong spokeswoman told AFP Thursday that Teng made repeated visits to China this year hoping to document the abuses against Falun Gong members and reveal them to the world.
She was applying for U.S. citizenship and her husband had tried to talk her into not going back to China until she was a U.S. citizen, Feng said.
"She really cared about what was happening to Falun Gong members in China, that's why she returned to China so many times despite the danger," said Feng Yuan.
An acupuncturist and an instructor at the New York Institute of Chinese Medicine, Teng would use the pseudonym of "Hannah Li" in contacting foreign journalists in Beijing.
A U.S. Embassy spokesman in Beijing told AFP Thursday the embassy was prevented from sending an official to the trial.
"We're monitoring the case closely, but I'm not sure what more we can do," said the official. "The problem is she's not a U.S. citizen so we don't have consular access like we do with U.S. citizens."
The court declined to comment.
China banned the Falun Gong movement in July 1999 and launched a massive crackdown which saw leaders jailed for up to 18 years and thousands of followers sent to prison or labor camps. ((c) 2000 Agence France Presse)