BEIJING, July 5 (UPI) -- A Chinese court in Beijing Monday sentenced a Chinese-born American geologist to eight years in prison for allegedly breaking state secrecy laws.
Despite U.S. pleas for leniency, Xue Feng, who had spent about 30 months in jail before his trial started, was found guilty on a charge stemming from the purchase of a database on the Chinese oil industry, The New York Times reported.
Xue, 44, who reportedly has a heart condition, said during his detention he had been tortured with lighted cigarettes.
U.S. Ambassador John Huntsman, who was in the court during sentencing, said in a statement the U.S. government is dismayed by the ruling and remains concerned about Xue's rights and well-being, the Times reported.
"Now that the Chinese legal system has ruled, I believe the time has come for Dr. Xue, who has already been detained for 2 1/2 years, to be released," the statement said.
The Times said Xue was sentenced under a vague secrecy law, which has been used to prosecute cases involving military espionage and information leaks.
Xue was detained in 2007 after concluding a purchase contract for a Colorado-based energy consulting firm for a database on the Chinese oil industry.