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China Shocked at Border Officer’s Acquittal

September 10, 2005

BEIJING (AP) _ China expressed shock at the acquittal of an American border officer accused of roughing up a Chinese tourist and said it will closely monitor her $10 million lawsuit against the U.S. government.

Homeland Security officer Robert Rhodes was found not guilty on Thursday of violating the civil rights of Zhao Yan, 38, a businesswoman who was touring Niagara Falls near the Canadian border in July 2004.

Rhodes told the court in upstate New York that Zhao took off running when he ordered her inside his inspection station to question her about a drug suspect with whom he thought she might be associated.

He was charged with using excessive force after he allegedly sprayed her with pepper gas, threw her against a wall and struck her head on the pavement.

Pictures of Zhao’s bruised face appeared in Chinese newspaper along with accounts of her ordeal. The Chinese consulate in New York issued a statement on its Web site Thursday condemning the officer.

``The New York consulate-general expresses its shock and regret and hopes the U.S. side truly safeguards the legal rights of Ms. Zhao,″ the statement said.

``The consulate-general strongly condemns the person who inflicted harm on Ms. Zhao,″ it added. ``The consulate-general continues to monitor closely the situation of her civil lawsuit.″

Zhao is suing the U.S. government for $10 million in damages.

Rhodes said he followed proper procedures in subduing Zhao and denied beating her.

The incident angered China, with Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing at one point raising the case with then-U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell.

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