WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. State Department confirmed on Wednesday that U.S. citizen James Wang has been imprisoned in China and that American diplomats have been denied permission to meet with him since he was arrested nearly 14 months ago.
Wang was one of two men who held senior positions on Hong Kong political magazines who were sentenced to prison terms on Tuesday on charges of illegal business operations, bribery and bid rigging, his lawyer has said.
Wang, 63, and Guo Zhongxiao, 41, were sentenced after five Hong Kong booksellers from a shop that specialized in gossipy books about China’s leaders disappeared and later appeared in custody in mainland China. The men worked for the political magazines New-Way Monthly and Multiple Face. Wang was a magazine founder and Guo a chief editor.
The case has raised concern about free speech in Hong Kong, a special administrative region of China. It has greater freedoms and separate laws from the mainland under a “one country, two systems” framework agreed when Britain handed back its former colony in 1997.
Wang, identified by his lawyer as Wang Jianmin, was sentenced to five years and three months in prison. Guo was sentenced to two years and three months, Wang’s lawyers, Chen Nansha, has said. The Shenzhen Nanshan District Court published details in line with Chen’s account.
Asked about the case, U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby said that since Wang’s arrest on May 31, 2014 “we’ve asked our Chinese counterparts repeatedly for permission to visit him, including permission to attend his trial. Those requests have all been denied.”
Kirby said the United States would continue to request access to Wang in order to provide consular services. Guo’s citizenship was not immediately clear, but he was born in China and had a Hong Kong identity card, Chen said.
Reporting by Washington newsroom; editing by Grant McCool