ROMULUS, Mich. — A U.S.-based Chinese scholar convicted of spying for Taiwan returned to the United States on Thursday, saying she was in a celebratory mood and excited to see her family.
Gao Zhan, a researcher at American University in Washington, was met by her husband at Detroit Metropolitan Airport on Thursday after China granted her medical parole.
Gao, wearing a long, red floral print dress, told a waiting crowd of reporters, "As you can see, I put on my red dress to celebrate.
"I can't wait to see my son back in Washington," she said, smiling but looking tired. The couple lives in McLean, Va., with their 5-year-old son, Andrew, and the two planned to fly to Washington later in the day.
"I'm really, really happy to have my wife back," her husband said. "As you can see, she's real. She's no longer a picture, no longer a TV image. She's very happy."
The Chinese government granted parole earlier Thursday to Gao, 39, and another scholar, clearing away a diplomatic obstacle before Secretary of State Colin Powell's weekend visit.
The second scholar, Qin Guangguang, was granted medical parole. Qin decided to remain in China, Powell told reporters in Vietnam.
Beijing has used medical parole in the past to rid itself of high-profile prisoners.
The releases came a day after a Chinese-born American business professor was deported after being convicted of spying in the same case as Gao.
Gao was convicted of spying and sentenced to 10 years in prison. Qin received the same sentence, though it wasn't clear whether their cases were connected.
President Bush said Thursday he hopes China was starting to realize it had to make "better decisions on human rights." Speaking to reporters in the Oval Office hours after the two scholars were freed, Bush attributed the release in part to U.S. pressure, saying he had raised the issue of both scholars in a telephone conversation with Chinese President Jiang Zemin on July 5.
"I would hope that part of it is because of the pressure our government put on China. I spoke directly to Jiang Zemin on this very subject," Bush said.
"Perhaps China is beginning to realize that as she begins to deal with Western nations she has to make better decisions on human rights," he added.
The two scholars were released shortly before Powell's planned weekend visit to Beijing. In advance of that trip, Powell met with Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan in Hanoi where the two were attending a regional security meeting.
Gao was detained Feb. 11 at the Beijing airport during a family visit to China. Her husband and son were detained with her and held for 26 days before being allowed to return to the United States.
Asked about Gao's release, Powell said "We are very pleased." Powell is to arrive in Beijing on Saturday to meet with Zemin and other top officials.
On Wednesday, China deported Li Shaomin, a U.S. business professor who was convicted like the others of spying for Taiwan, which China considers a renegade province.
Gao was convicted of giving sensitive materials to Li, who teaches business at the City University of Hong Kong. Her lawyers said she gave Li academic materials as part of normal scholarly exchanges.