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China: The Chinese-American Researcher Jailed in Iran Is Not a Chinese Citizen

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China: The Chinese-American Researcher Jailed in Iran Is Not a Chinese Citizen

Iran sentenced a Princeton Chinese-American graduate student to 10 years in jail on spying charges

China: The Chinese-American Researcher Jailed in Iran Is Not a Chinese Citizen
Credit: Princeton University

On July 16, Iran announced that a Chinese-American graduate student from Princeton University had been sentenced to jail for 10 years on spying charges. According to Reuters, the student is a dual national (U.S. and China). On July 17, China denied the claim and emphasized that the student is not a Chinese citizen.

According to Iran’s judiciary spokesman, Gholamhossein Mohseni-Ejeie, the jailed American academic Xiyue Wang, 37, “has been confirmed and verified” to be “involved in the infiltration project.”

The spokesman claimed: “Before his arrest he was able to digitally archive 4,500 pages of the country’s documents while under covert surveillance, ” and added that Wang had gathered highly confidential articles for U.S. and British institutions including the U.S. State Department, Princeton University, the Harvard Kennedy School, and the British Institute of Persian Studies.

The Reuters report added that that Xiyue Wang is a Chinese and American dual citizen.

Regarding the case, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang replied to a reporter on a regular press conference on July 17:

You should understand the relevant policies of the Chinese government– we do not recognize dual nationality. You also mentioned that Wang Xiyue has American citizenship.  I can tell you clearly, based on our knowledge, he does not have Chinese nationality.

What the Chinese government actually means, in another word, is that Wang has nothing to do with China anymore and China would not take care of the case.

Yet, based on Wang’s Linkedin, Wang himself still claims he is from China. Wang’s profile picture on the Princeton University website also shows him standing right in front of the door of Xinhua News Agency Kabul Bureau, the Chinese national news agency.

Meanwhile, Princeton University issued a supporting statement right after the Iranian announcement. In the statement, Princeton revealed that Wang was arrested last summer:

Xiyue Wang is a fourth-year doctoral candidate (graduate student) in the Department of History at Princeton University. His field is late 19th and early 20th century Eurasian history. He was arrested in Iran last summer, while there doing scholarly research on the administrative and cultural history of the late Qajar dynasty in connection with his Ph.D. dissertation. Since his arrest, the university has worked with Mr. Wang’s family, the U.S. government, private counsel, and others to facilitate his release.

Without mentioning Wang’s name and revealing more details, the U.S. State Department also said in a statement:

The Iranian regime continues to detain U.S. citizens and other foreigners on fabricated national-security related changes. We call for the immediate release of all U.S. citizens unjustly detained in Iran so they can return to their families.


Charlotte Gao holds a MA degree in Asian Studies. Her research interests center around East Asian topics. She has worked in the past as a news editor, reporter, and writer for multiple traditional, online, and new media outlets.