A Chinese court convicted a long-detained American businesswoman of espionage and ordered her imprisoned and deported in a case seen as a barometer of US-China relations, the Wall Street Journal reports.
After a half-day trial Tuesday, the court in the southern city of Nanning ordered Phan Phan-Gillis imprisoned for 3½ years and deported for espionage, according to one of her lawyers.
The judge did not say if Phan-Gillis, a 57-year-old business consultant from Houston who has already been detained for two years, would be deported before serving the remainder of her term.
Phan-Gillis, who goes by the name “Sandy,” pleaded guilty to the espionage charges and made no other statement in court, said Shang Baojun, her lawyer.
She is being held in a police detention center—rather than being sent to prison—during the 10-day window for filing an appeal, Shang said, and before the trial, she told him she would not appeal if the sentence was light.
The court declined to comment. The US consulate in Guangzhou said American officials are following Phan-Gillis’s case and have “regularly raised” it with Chinese officials. Her husband, Jeff Gillis, declined to comment other than to say: “I will just be happy if we can bring Sandy home.”
Phan-Gillis’s detention simmered through most of the last two years of the Obama administration. Recently improving relations between Beijing and the new Trump administration seemed to offer a chance for progress.
US and Chinese officials discussed her case during preparation for a summit at Mar-a-Lago earlier this month, and the positive tone set by President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping was seen by US officials as helpful in moving Phan-Gillis’s case toward a resolution.
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