Xue Feng (薛峰)- Sentenced to 8 years in prison after 2 and a half years of incarceration by Chinese Authorities!  NOW FREE!!!!

Xue Feng has asked that I post this letter expressing his thanks to all who been involved in his case. Please read and share. It is a truly remarkable statement from one who has somehow emerged from hell a better person.


Press Release:

Friday, April 3, 2015

Dr. Xue Feng, a U.S. citizen and geologist, who has been detained and imprisoned in China since Nov. 20, 2007 was released and immediately deported today. He and his family are beginning the process of reuniting after more than seven and a half years of traumatic separation. Dr. Xue and his family want to express their sincere thanks to all of those who helped over the long course of this excruciating affair. Dr. Xue respectfully requests that he and his family be granted some time to begin the process of recovery from this unimaginably horrible experience of torture, incarceration for a crime that was not committed, and the unconscionable trauma associated with their forced separation that he and his family suffered for the past seven and a half years.


Xue Feng was a graduate student of mine who worked with me in the Dabie Shan and Tongbai Shan on ultra-high pressure (UHP) metamorphism and exhumation. We published a number of papers together describing the structure and geochronology of various aspects of the Dabie Shan and Tongbai Shan. We continued to work together after completion of his PhD as an NSF funded research associate, focusing on structures associated with exhumation of UHP rocks. Feng was hired away from this position by IHS Inc. where he replaced another former student Nie Shangyou who moved to Shell. Feng worked for IHS until July 2007, before his arrest by Chinese authorities Nov. 20, 2007. He has now been in custody for more than 4 years supposedly for violating Chinese State Secrets for helping to arrange the acquisition of a Chinese compiled database by IHS. According to the AP  and Embassy staff who visited  Feng was abused by his captors (see coverage by Charles Hutzler and Congressional Executive Committee on China). Feng is married and he and his wife are U.S. Citizens and  have two wonderful U.S. born children who dearly hope that their father will be released immediately so that he can return home to his family. Feng would appreciate any and all assistance in obtaining his release.

    Here is Xue Feng’s personal letter to President Obama written from his prison cell in Beijing appealing for his assistance in obtaining his release from prison. Xue Letter to President Obama.11.25.11.pdf

    Here is my most recent letter to President Obama supporting Feng’s request for his assistance in obtaining the release of Dr. Xue Feng. ObamaLetterDec2011.pdf

About Dr. Xue Feng

Dec. 7, 1993

    As has now been made public in the news reports of the reading of the verdict in Beijing it is now entirely clear that Xue Feng was acting entirely in his capacity as an employee of IHS Inc. In fact, the contract to acquire the database in question was approved and signed by senior management at IHS Inc. not by Dr. Xue Feng. This raises several simple questions that have not been answered to date: (1) Why did the Chinese authorities arrest an individual employee rather than charge IHS as a corporate entity since clearly this reflected corporate activity not the act of a given individual? (2) How has IHS responded to the arrest of their former employee?

    Only Chinese authorities can answer question 1, but it is worth pointing out that, at least by my understanding, elsewhere the charge would have been made against the corporate entities involved in the transaction with liability held either by the corporation or by the executives actually involved in authorizing and arranging payment for the acquisition of data. It would not focus on a single individual employee, acting entirely on the corporation’s behalf. How could IHS respond at this point to clarify the nature of the data that it acquired? They could and should have gone public in its support of its former employee and clearly indicated the nature and significance of the data in question. Are these data atypical of the types of data that IHS has obtained throughout the world, including previously in China? To my understanding the answer to that last question is NO. Petroconsultants , which was acquired in 1996 (according to the IHS web site) by IHS Inc. and IHS have made their business by obtaining and redistributing exactly this type of information world wide. The IHS website lists exactly this type of information for some 580,000 wells worldwide. (I thank Charles Hutzler of the AP for pointing out this specific website) IHS could therefore clarify that this data is not generally viewed as state secrets elsewhere and that Xue Feng, nor IHS would have never imagined that this database would be characterized as "endangered our country's national security" (as quoted in this report) resulting in the imprisonment of their former employee.

    Only IHS Inc. can explain why it has completely avoided taking any corporate responsibility, and perhaps equally significant provided any tangible assistance to Dr. Xue, Dr. Xue’s wife and children for the more than 7 and a half years that Dr. Xue languished in Chinese detention and now prison. Dr. Xue lost his livelihood when he was arrested for doing his job as an employee of IHS, and yet IHS continues to profit from the very database that he wasted seven and a half years of his life in prison for. It hardly seems fair or just, actually it is unconscionable.

IHS Inc. has been aware of this case from the time that his detention was made known to the U.S. Embassy and Dr. Xue’s wife but refused to accept any involvement in the case until the verdict was read and their involvement could no longer be denied! Letters to IHS president Jerre Stead, requesting assistance toward winning Dr. Xue’s release either were unanswered or resulted in no discernible action. Unlike Rio Tinto which responded aggressively, IHS has remained entirely on the sideline, and continues to remain there. Their behavior is, in my opinion, inexcusable, and, I for one, wish there was some way to hold them accountable for their failures in this case. If I were them I would be embarrassed by their inaction.

Page Last Updated: April 3, 2015

Last night (July 4th, 2010) as Americans everywhere were watching the spectacle of fireworks and listening to reverberations of the accompanying sounds reminding us of our constitutional heritage of freedom, of liberty, and pursuit of happiness, half a world away an American citizen was sentenced to 8 years imprisonment and fined $30,000 as an individual for doing his job by Chinese authorities. The Chinese judicial system, such as it is, abridged his rights and violated any and all normal standards by finding him guilty of violating "state secrets" for acquiring data available in the public domain for his employer at the time, IHS Inc. As best anyone can tell the declaration of “state secret” was only made after IHS had obtained the database and therefore Dr. Xue could not have known that it was secret because it was not. How can one do business in China when, after the fact, the information involved can be retroactively declared “state secret” and that those involved can be incarcerated for violations of provisions of the law pertaining to state secrets even though this was not the case when the information was obtained? This is what happened to Dr. Xue Feng.

    This was not a nefarious deal, but a very public one in which Xue Feng was simply a corporate representative acting on IHS’s behalf. He had done this many times before. What is most troubling is that it raises concern for all of us who work or do research in China and may be given books or documents that exist in the public domain but are deemed "state secrets" after the fact. What source can assure us that we are within the law? How can anyone be sure that the information they have is "legal"? Having worked in China for 26 years and researched the geology, including the petroleum geology of China, I have to admit I am no longer certain and far from confident that I too will not be detained, incarcerated, and found guilty of violating states secrets for possession of geologic information that I bought at the bookstore. So while I enjoyed the 4th and all it represents we should not forget that others, in this case Dr. Xue Feng has had his rights taken away in a country that aspires to world status but fails even at the most basic level to insure the normative rights of individuals working within their borders. Truly frightening for those of us who have come to love the people, the culture, and the countryside to realize just how unjust the underlying security apparatus can be even with a non-citizen. 

Written July 5, 2010


Corporate Responsibility? Why Personal Liability?

Photos of Dr. Xue Feng

These photos were taken by me in front of the Dabie Shan Hotel in Yuexi, Anhui Province in Dec. 1993. I grant non-exclusive use of these photographs.

About Dr. xue feng


On February 3, 2012 - Feng will have served half his sentence and will be eligible for parole!  Help to free him on humanitarian and health grounds!Let your congressional representatives  know of your concerns for his health and well-being and for the sake of his family. Better yet contact the Chinese Embassy in Washington to express your wishes that Dr. Xue be immediately released on humanitarian grounds.

Read Dr. Xue’s personal appeal to President Obama asking for his assistance. Xue Letter to President Obama.11.25.11.pdf

    It is most disappointing that the Chinese have failed to release Dr. Xue  in association with the recent visit of vice president Xi to the U.S.  Why are the Chinese so set on making Dr. Xue and his family suffer?