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American Faces Death For Spying Arrest Of Human Rights Activist Damages U.S.-China Relations

In a new blow to U.S.-China relations, China said Saturday that it will formally charge an American citizen with espionage, stealing state secrets and trying to sneak into China using an assumed name.

The charges against Harry Wu, 58, could carry the death penalty and are likely to provoke an outcry among members of Congress, who have often heard Wu testify about prison conditions in China.

The Chinese-born Wu spent 19 years in Chinese jails and labor camps after being labeled a rightist in 1957 for criticizing the 1956 Soviet invasion of Hungary. He emigrated to the United States in 1985 and is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University and director of his own research foundation. Wu has campaigned vigorously to expose conditions in what he calls “the Chinese gulag,” borrowing a term used to describe the Soviet Union’s prison system.

Wu’s arrest takes place at a time of rapidly deteriorating relations between the United States and China.

For several months, the two nations have clashed over trade issues, human rights, allegations of Chinese missile sales to Pakistan and Iran, arrangements for an international women’s conference, China’s negotiations to sell nuclear power technology to Iran, and Chinese military moves in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.

China has also been irked by the