HONG KONG -- A noted Chinese scientist who disappeared mysteriously near the remote nuclear weapons facility at Lopnur was spotted in the United States by the son of Communist Party Vice Chairman Deng Ziaoping, a Hong Kong newspaper reported today.
The Chinese-language Center Daily News said scientist Peng Jiamu, vice chairman of the Academy of Sciences in Xinjiang Province, was seen at a restaurant in Washington.
Deng Zefang, son of China's strongman, and two other Chinese colleagues saw Peng, who denied being the missing scientist and hurriedly left the restaurant with two Americans, the newspaper said.
Peng reportedly vanished June 17 while leading an expedition of scientists near the nuclear weapons outpost at Lopnur, in China's remote northwestern province of Xinjiang. An extensive air and land search turned up nothing.
The restaurant scene took place Sept. 14, according to the Center News.
A specialist in plant diseases and natural resource science, Peng was involved with scientists who developed China's first atomic bomb and tested it in 1964, the newspaper said.
The younger Deng, now studying in the United States, was at one time a student of Peng's.
Another person in the party, Chou Guanglei, also knew the scientist, the report said. Chou was one of Peng's teachers 30 years ago and saw him last year when he visited China, the newspaper said.
The account was based on a letter reportedly written by Chou to Peng's wife in China. Chou said he sent a copy to the newspaper in hopes of helping solve the mystery. The newspaper published the text of the letter.
'At about 7 p.m., we suddenly saw Peng Jiamu walk into the restaurant with two Americans. I was shocked,' Chou said in the letter.
'I knew him 30 years ago and last spring I saw him when I returned to China. How could it be that it wasn't him?'
In Peking, the Foreign Ministry had no immediate comment. Unconfirmed reports said people in Xinjiang believe Peng fled the country and that the Chinese were secretly looking for him in the United States.