China may put human-rights activist Harry Wu on trial in the next few days and clear up his case, perhaps opening the way for Hillary Rodham Clinton to attend an international women's conference in Beijing next month.
The first lady has pointedly delayed her decision about whether to participate in the conference in hopes of seeing progress in Wu's case."There are some indications he may be tried on charges that are unclear at this point," White House press secretary Mike McCurry said Tuesday. "We're not certain what that means to his release."
He said it appeared that a trial might occur in the next few days.
The women's conference, sponsored by the United Nations, is set for Sept. 4-15. Nearly 50,000 people from around the world are expected to attend the conference and a related Non-Governmental Organizations Forum.
Republican congressional leaders have urged Hillary Clinton to boycott the meeting in protest of China's human rights abuses. Wu's wife, Ching Lee Wu, also has pleaded with the first lady not to attend as long as her husband is held.
On the other hand, women's activists say her participation would focus a sharp spotlight on abuses of women around the world. Hillary Clinton has made clear she is keenly interested in attending the conference to represent women's causes.
Wu, 58, a Chinese-born American citizen who has secretly filmed abuses in Chinese prisons, was arrested June 19 when he tried to enter China from Kazakhstan. He was charged with espionage, a crime punishable by death.
Publicly, the administration has insisted there is no linkage between Wu's case and Hillary Clinton's decision whether to attend the conference. Yet, privately, officials acknowledge the two are intertwined in a difficult political issue for the administration.
A quick trial and the release of Wu "might open up the possibility" of Hillary Clinton's participation in the conference, a senior administration official said.
The U.S. Embassy in Beijing refused to say whether it had been notified by the Chinese of any impending trial plans.