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China Abruptly Executes Convicted Spy

Family Is Denied Chance to Say Goodbye
By Lauren Keane, Washington Post
November 29, 2008

BEIJING, Nov. 28 -- China on Friday executed a man convicted of passing sensitive military and political information to Taiwan a day after notifying his relatives through diplomatic channels that they would have a second chance to visit him, his daughter said.

Austrian Deputy Ambassador Stefan Scholz relayed the news of the execution late Friday afternoon to the family of Wo Weihan, 60, according to Wo's daughter Ran Chen. Chen is an Austrian citizen and had been appealing for clemency through diplomatic channels since arriving in Beijing on Monday. She said she had been told her father was executed by gunshot.

Wo was put to death even as Chinese and E.U. officials were wrapping up a summit on human rights here in Beijing. The sequence of events raises the question of whether the Chinese government had merely waited until the summit ended to carry out the execution. Capital punishment is at the top of the European Union's human rights agenda with China, Scholz said Friday morning, before he learned of Wo's execution.

The news shocked Wo's family members, who at a Thursday afternoon news conference had praised China's willingness to grant them a second visit and said they had not lost hope that Chinese officials would commute Wo's sentence based on what they said were numerous legal flaws in the case against him.

Chen said that her father had not been told of his impending execution when she met with him Thursday morning and that she never received written confirmation that his final appeal to the Supreme People's Court had been turned down.

"Our father was a Chinese citizen and is subject to Chinese law," Chen wrote in a statement released Friday evening. "But the Chinese law also says that death row prisoners deserve the right to see their families before execution, to say goodbye and to go in peace."

Chen said her parents had raised her and her sister to respect Chinese values of gratitude to and love for their parents. "The legal procedures in China, which we experienced in these last traumatic days, show no regard for these values," she said.

The family expressed outrage at the breakdown in communication. "We're extremely frustrated," said Chen's husband, Michael Rolufs, after hearing word of the execution from private contacts but before receiving confirmation through official channels.

Calls to the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Austrian Embassy on Friday night went unanswered.

John Kamm, executive director of the Dui Hua Foundation, a human rights group in San Francisco who has worked closely with Chen on the case, reacted with anger and disbelief when reached by phone Friday evening.

"I have been doing this work for 19 years, and this is the absolute lowest point of those 19 years," he said. "I am devastated."

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