An American business woman was formally arrested in China on Sunday on charges of spying, her husband says ahead of Chinese President Xi Jinping US state visit.
Mrs Phan-Gillis was visiting southern China as part of a business delegation from Houston when she was detained in March on suspicion of spying, the New York Times reports.
Her husband, Jeff told the Wall Street Journal that his wife “isn’t a spy or a thief”.
Her case had gone unreported until Monday, after her husband learned of her formal arrest.
Mr Gillis hopes to use Chinese President Xi Jiping’s visit to the US this week to shed light on his wife’s case.
“It’s the most stupid politics in the world to arrest a US citizen the week Xi Jinping is coming to the United States for a state visit,” he said to the New York Times.
Spokesman for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Hong Lei, confirmed that Mrs Phan-Gillis was under investigation “on suspicion of activities harmful to Chinese national security” according to the New York Times.
“We hope that the outside world will respect China’s handling of this case according to the law,” Hong reportedly said.
Mrs Phan-Gillis, 55, also known as Sandy, is an American citizen born in Vietnam and of ethnic Chinese heritage. On the SaveSandy.org she is described as a “hard working businesswoman who spends huge amounts of time on non-profit activities that benefit Houston-China relations. Sandy has been a good friend to China for decades.”
The website was built to raise awareness and contributions to assist with Mrs Phan-Gillis’ release.
There have been no detailed explanations and the American citizen was not allowed to speak with her friends, family or lawyers, according to the website.
As the world’s two biggest economies, US and China’s relationships are notoriously tense Mrs Phan-Gillis’ case could add further pressure.
The punishment for stealing state secrets under Chinese law is life in prison, with some severe cases receiving the death penalty.Reuse content