URL of the original posting site: http://www.westernjournalism.com/trump-administration-intervenes-china-frees-american-held-since-2015/
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A Houston woman detained by China in 2015 arrived back in the United States on Friday after the Trump administration negotiated for her release.
Phan Phan-Gillis, also knows as Sandy Phan-Gillis, had been charged as a spy, a claim she and her family denied. Although the Obama administration protested that charge in 2015, she was held until this week.
On Tuesday, the 57-year-old woman was tried and pronounced guilty, then deported to the United States on Friday without having to serve the three-year term to which she was sentenced.
The Dui Hua Foundation, a human rights organization, said Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had added his influence to the effort to free her.
“Negotiations to secure the release of Ms. Phan-Gillis intensified during Secretary Tillerson’s visit to Beijing in March,” the group said in a statement, adding that the Trump White House helped the State Department “in bringing the negotiations to a successful conclusion.”
Jeff Kamm, who founded Dui Hua, said the overtures President Donald Trump has made to Chinese leaders to improve relations between the two nations were a contributing factor in the release of Phan-Gillis.
“If U.S.-China relations were not going as well as they are right now, I think this outcome would have been different,” she said.
Her release was welcomed in her native Texas.
“I’m relieved that Sandy Phan-Gillis has been released and will soon be reunited with her loved ones in Houston,” said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas. “The unlawful detention of an American citizen for more than two years with little to no explanation by Chinese authorities is shameful and unacceptable.”
“I applaud the State Department and thank President Trump for his leadership in securing Sandy’s release,” said Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who also criticized China for detaining her in the first place.
“It should be noted that Sandy’s purpose in visiting China two years ago was to strengthen commercial and cultural exchanges on behalf of the city of Houston. The Chinese government — cynically and to the astonishment of many — perceived this cultural bridge-builder as a threat. Sandy was unjustly deprived of her liberty for two years, time during which she was denied basic legal protections and her loved ones lacked accurate information about her condition,” Cruz said.
Jeff Gillis said his wife arrived in Los Angeles on Friday.
“Many of Sandy’s friends and family members have been crying tears of joy throughout the day,” he said in an email.
“Sandy was not allowed to speak with her lawyers for well over a year,” Gillis said, adding, “China State Security used torture to force Sandy to make a false confession.”