BEIJING (AP) _ A Chinese-American researcher who has secretly slipped into Chinese prisons to expose abuses was arrested today and charged with stealing state secrets _ a crime that can bring the death penalty.

Harry Wu, who was taken into custody June 19 as he entered China from Kazakhstan, was arrested in the central city of Wuhan, the official Xinhua News Agency said.

The Xinhua report did not explain how he got to Wuhan from the border city where he was first detained, thousands of miles west in the remote Xinjiang region.

U.S. demands for information about or access to Wu, 58, of Milpitas, Calif., have gone unheeded. A U.S. Embassy spokesman said today they had been informed about the arrest and would try to contact Wu in Wuhan.

Xinhua said Wu was charged with ``entering into China under false names, illegally obtaining China's state secrets and conducting criminal activities.''

The report said in the past four years, Wu has ``engaged in espionage and bought secret information and stole secret documents. He carried these secrets abroad and provided them to foreign organizations and institutions.''

Wu has several times snuck into Chinese prison camps and filmed surreptitiously to uncover abuses. In 1991 he documented prison labor making goods for export to the United States, and last year he filmed a documentary that charged China with harvesting organs from executed prisoners.

In 1983, a Hong Kong-born, Harvard-trained lawyer, Hanson Huang, was sentenced to 15 years for stealing state secrets. He was paroled two years later.

Wu's wife, Ching-lee Wu, was told of her husband's arrest by the State Department. In a statement from her home in Milpitas, she called on the Clinton administration to act.

``The Chinese government has made its decision on how they intend to handle my husband,'' she said. ``It is now time for the U.S. government to make its decisions.''

The State Department had no comment early today.

U.S. officials have not been allowed access to Wu since his detention last month despite a consular agreement that such visits be granted within 48 hours of a national's arrest or detention.

Wu served 19 years in Chinese labor camps for criticizing the Communist Party. After his 1979 release, he worked as a college math and English teacher, then emigrated to the United States in 1985 and became a U.S. citizen.

He was a visiting scholar at the University of California, Berkeley, then joined the Hoover Institution at Stanford University in 1987. Three years ago, he started the Laogai Research Foundation in Milpitas, 40 miles southeast of San Francisco, to study Chinese prison camps.

Wu made headlines in 1991 after he returned to China carrying a hidden camera for the CBS program ``60 Minutes'' and for Newsweek magazine.

Posing variously as a businessman interested in buying labor camp products, as a worker from Shanghai visiting friends who worked as guards and as a Chinese policeman, Wu gained entry into the prison camps and filmed inhumane treatment, including scenes of prisoners standing waist-deep in vats of chemicals used to treat animal hide.

Wu's testimony before Congress alerted U.S. Customs to imported Chinese products made with prison labor, a violation of U.S. law.

In a 1993 autobiography, ``Bitter Winds: A Memoir of My Years in China's Gulag,'' Wu wrote that that his 1991 trip ``fulfilled part of a consuming mission.

``Even though I had found safety in the United States, I had never found rest. ... I felt urgently the responsibility not just to disclose but to publicize the truth about the Communist Party's mechanisms of control, whatever the risk to me, whatever the discomfort of telling my story.''