China charges detained Houston woman with espionage

HOUSTON, Aug. 30 (UPI) — China charged a Houston businesswoman with espionage allegedly committed 20 years ago, her husband said after reading the indictment.

Phan Phan-Gillis, 56, who is of Chinese descent, immigrated to the United States more than 40 years ago from Vietnam and is a U.S. citizen. Known as “Sandy” in Houston, she developed a business consulting firm which has taken her to China many times.

She was detained in China in March 2015 as she passed through a Macao-China immigration checkpoint, while on a trade mission that included a Houston city councilman.

Her husband, Jeff Gillis, said Monday his lawyers recently received a copy of the indictment, “weeks after it was issued in court.” It charges her with spying for a foreign government from 1996 to 1998 and recruiting Chinese citizens to spy for foreign agencies. It was the first indication of the reason she has been detained in China for more than a year. China said Phan-Gillis is suspected of stealing and spying, and that “a new crime of espionage” was found after her arrest, the Houston Chronicle reported Monday.

Gillis called the charges “absolutely false.”

The indictment did not identify the country for which Phan-Gillis was allegedly spying, but specifies she conducted a spying mission in China in 1996, in the city of Nanning, near the Vietnam border and where she is currently detained. Her husband said her passport indicates she did not visit China that year.

A U.N. panel ruled in June that China violated human rights standards by detaining Phan-Gillis, noting she was not offered legal assistance nor had she appeared before judicial authorities
Gillis is attempting to focus attention on his wife’s case, as President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping will meet at the G20 summit at Zhejiang and Hangzhou, China, this weekend.

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