Hong Kong's City University associate professor Li Shaomin, 45, was singled out by the Shenzhen Bureau of the Ministry of State Security on February 25, according to the Information Center for Human rights and Democracy in China.
Li's wife, Amy Liu Yinli, told the South China Morning Post newspaper, "We don't known why he was arrested and where he is now being kept. All I can say is that he has done nothing wrong."
She said he disappeared after crossing Hong Kong's border with China to visit a friend.
The center's director, Frank Lu Suqing, said that members of Li's family had told him that Li was being held by the Ministry of State Security. He said the academic's father, Li Honglin, a well-known liberal scholar, was charged by Beijing with playing a hidden role in the pro-democracy Tiananmen Square demonstrations in 1989.
Li Honglin was then detained for 10 months by the Beijing authorities. He now lives in Hong Kong with his son.
Human Rights official Lu said the academic's arrest was odd, as he had not been involved in political matters.
Li's wife reported him missing to local police on Feb. 26 but the case was dropped on March 3 after she told police she had been informed Li was safe. She requested they discontinue their search.
The American Embassy in Beijing said the Chinese authorities had informed them that a U.S. citizen had been detained but under U.S. privacy laws could not divulge where and for what reason the person was being held.
Li's detention follows the arrest of researcher Gao Zhan, who is being held by China on charges of spying. The United States has protested Gao's imprisonment to the Beijing authorities. She was taken with her husband and son on Feb. 11 on a visit to China. Gao was held separately from her family, who were detained for a month and then released.
The detentions of the American academics come after a senior Chinese military officer defected late last year to the United States. News of Senior Colonel Xu Junping's defection made headlines last week as President George W. Bush prepared to meet China's Vice-Premier Qian Qichen for the first high-level meetings between the two countries since Bush took office.
At the time of the meetings Qian implied that Gao might have been unaware that she had been breaking the law. Days later China's Foreign Ministry said she had been serving as a spy for "overseas intelligence agencies." Observers say the implication is that Beijing may believe she was connected to U.S. intelligence.
The U.S. government has denied China's charge that Gao is a spy, and on Friday, Xue Donghua, Gao's husband, was sworn in as an U.S. citizen in a move to help push for her freedom.
Li was born in mainland China but obtained U.S. citizenship in the 1980s, according to the South China Morning Post. He earned a doctorate in sociology from Princeton University in 1988 and spent a postdoctoral year as a fellow at the Harvard University Fairbank Center for East Asian Research.
In 1993, said the newspaper, he served as a United Nations adviser to China on the use of demographic information in business. He then worked for the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Peking University and the AT&T School of Business. He joined the City University of Hong Kong's marketing department in 1996.
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