Date
23 January 2017
Houston-based businesswoman Sandy Phan-Gillis is said to have been detained by Chinese authorities on charges of spying and theft of state secrets. Credit: Houston Chronicle
Houston-based businesswoman Sandy Phan-Gillis is said to have been detained by Chinese authorities on charges of spying and theft of state secrets. Credit: Houston Chronicle

American woman detained in China on spying allegations

Chinese authorities are said to have detained an American woman earlier this year over allegations of spying and theft of state secrets.

Sandy Phan-Gillis, a 55-year-old businesswoman of Chinese descent, was taken into custody in Zhuhai in March as she was traveling as part of a trade delegation from Houston, according to the Wall Street Journal and Houston Chronicle.

She was then transferred to the inland city of Nanning where on Sunday, authorities placed her under criminal detention, a procedure that often leads to a formal arrest, the Journal said, citing the woman’s husband Jeff Gillis and Chinese lawyers.

Authorities are yet to give details on what Phan-Gillis is alleged to have done, the people said, adding that she wasn’t also allowed to directly contact her family, friends and lawyers.

She has, however, been granted regular visits from US consular officers.

“My wife isn’t a spy or a thief,” Jeff Gillis told the Journal. “She is a hardworking businesswoman who spends huge amounts of time on nonprofit activities in Houston and China.”

Gillis, a 53-year-old oil-and-gas services manager in Houston, said he didn’t publicize his wife’s detention at first so as not to jeopardize efforts by officials to secure her release.

But he decided to go public ahead of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s arrival in the US on Tuesday for a weeklong visit that includes talks with President Barack Obama.

At the time of her detention, Phan-Gillis was traveling in China as part of a five-person trade delegation that included businessmen and Houston municipal officials.

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