Thumbing its nose at a direct appeal from President Obama, a Chinese court today sentenced an American geologist to eight years in prison for trying to buy a commercially available database of information about the Chinese oil industry on the behalf of his employer. Xue Feng, 44, who was detained three years ago and reportedly tortured, was also fined nearly $30,000 for collecting intelligence and illegally providing state secrets, reports the Wall Street Journal.
The US Embassy in Beijing, whose reps have visited Xue some 30 times in the last three years, has called for his "humanitarian release," adding that Washington is "dismayed" at the sentence. The New York Times notes that the case highlights China's sensitivity regarding those who have access to its natural resources. The sentence "sends a very bad signal to the foreign business community," said the director of a group that tried to help those detained in China. "This guy was doing his job." According to the AP, Xue was tortured by state security agents who stubbed lit cigarettes into his arms and hit him on the head with an ashtray.