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How this Long Island man ended up in Chinese prison on espionage charges

June 25, 2020. Summarized by summa-bot.

American Kai Li was born in Shanghai, and was returning to the city for family reasons. However when his plane landed, he was met not by his family, but state security agents -- beginning a years-long ordeal that resulted, in July 2018, in him being sentenced to 10 years in prison for espionage.

The case, which was held behind closed doors and has not been widely publicized, revolves around supposed state secrets that Li and his lawyer argue are freely available online, as well as communications with the United States government that are routine for people doing cross-border business.

"My father would visit China a couple of times a year, for two or three weeks at a time," Harrison Li said.

Prior to being detained by state security at the airport in Shanghai, Harrison Li said the family had no idea anything might be amiss.

Kai Li was eventually sentenced to 10 years in prison, and moved to Shanghai's Qingpu prison.

Harrison Li said the prison doctor gave his father a blood pressure test and prescribed him a blood thinner, but would not respond to requests for a more thorough medical examination.

As well as heart issues, Harrison Li said the coronavirus had become a concern for his father in recent months.

"The level of nutrition at the prison has gone down significantly," the younger Li said.

Harrison Li said the pandemic has also essentially cut Kai Li, and other foreign prisoners, off from the outside world, with no consular visits allowed since the virus began spreading in China in January.

"US-China negotiations seem to be hitting new lows everyday," Harrison Li said.

Kai Li is the only US citizen held on state security charges.

"My father is part of a broader pattern of the Chinese government charging foreign citizens on state security charges," Harrison Li said.

But Harrison Li said it could result in "political prosecutions. "

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