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Scholars urge China to release professor

Li Shaomin
There has been no official explanation for the detention of Li Shaomin  

HONG KONG, China -- A group of academics in the United States is urging China to free a Hong Kong-based scholar who has been detained for a month.

Li Shaomin, a 45-year-old business professor at the City University, is one of three Chinese-born academics with U.S. ties to have been detained recently.

State security agents picked up Li, a supporter of the 1989 Tiananmen pro-democracy movement, after he crossed the border to the mainland city of Shenzhen in February.

In an open letter issued through the Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy, 13 Chinese-born scholars said Li's detention was "a suppression and ruination of academic freedom and thought, and democracy".

"Li Shaomin is academically accomplished and very enthusiastic about China's modernization and his detention is shocking and incomprehensible," the letter said.

Li's wife earlier said she could not imagine why her husband, who travels frequently to the mainland for work, was detained.

In the letter, the scholars said such "arbitrary arrests gives students and scholars overseas the feeling that the mainland was totally lacking personal security".

Li's case came to light when China and the U.S. have been at loggerheads over the detention of Chinese academic Gao Zhan, a social science fellow at the American University in Washington, D.C..

Beijing accuses Gao of espionage, which U.S. government has denied.

And over the weekend, the Hong Kong rights group said a third Chinese-born permanent Hong Kong resident had been detained in China for nearly eight months.

Xu Zerong is a prominent expert on Chinese Communist history and military issues. He used to work as a researcher for the official Xinhua News Agency in Hong Kong.

About 20 Americans are now detained in China for various reasons, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Consulate in Hong Kong said.

So far, China has rebuffed protests from U.S. President George W. Bush, the Congress and human rights groups over the Gao case.

Reuters contributed to this report.



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RELATED SITES:
U.S. Consulate, Hong Kong
Li Shaomin's homepage

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