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China deports Houston woman convicted on spying charges

By Daniel Uria
China deports Houston woman convicted on spying charges
China deported Houston businesswoman Phan Phan-Gillis back to the United States two years after she was detained on suspicions of espionage while on a routine business trip. Photo courtesy of SaveSandy.org.

April 29 (UPI) -- A Texas businesswoman detained and convicted of spying charges in China while on a business trip was deported back to the United States.

Phan Phan-Gillis, also known as Sandy, arrived in Los Angeles in good health late Friday night, according to her husband Jeff Gillis.

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"Sandy is overjoyed to be reunited with friends and family, and sends out her thanks to the many people who worked tirelessly for her release," her husband said. "Many of Sandy's friends and family members have been crying tears of joy throughout the day."

Prior to her deportation and return to the United States, the 57-year-old Phan-Gillis from Houston had been sentenced to three and a half years in prison by a court in Nanning on Tuesday.

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She was charged with espionage in August 2016 after she was detained in China in March 2015 while passing through a Macao-China immigration checkpoint on a trade mission that included a Houston city councilman.

While Phan-Gillis was in China her husband campaigned to have the charges overturned, insisting she was innocent and dismissing the claims of espionage as "absolutely false."

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"Sandy was not allowed to speak with her lawyers for well over a year," he said. "China State Security used torture to force Sandy to make a false confession."

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A U.N. human rights committee condemned her detention as a violation of international law and the San Francisco-based Dui Hua Foundation also made efforts toward securing her release.

The foundation, which works to improve human rights in China, said the White House assisted the State Department and U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in "in bringing the negotiations to a successful conclusion."

"Negotiations to secure the release of Ms. Phan-Gillis intensified during Secretary Tillerson's visit to Beijing in March 2017," the foundation said.

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Gillis said he and his wife plan to spend a few days in Los Angeles to spend time with her family before returning to their home in Houston.

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