BEIJING (AP) _ A Chinese court on Thursday found American human rights activist Harry Wu guilty of spying and other charges and sentenced him to 15 years in prison.

The court also said Wu will be expelled from China, the state-run Xinhua News Agency said.

Under Chinese law, Wu must first serve the prison sentence, said a spokesman for the Wuhan Intermediate People's Court who gave his name as Mr. Yang. The court in central Hubei province handed down the verdict Thursday morning.

A U.S. Embassy spokesman said it was not yet clear when Wu would be expelled and whether Chinese authorities would insist he serve the prison term.

Wu has the right to appeal within 10 days, Xinhua said. However, Wu and his attorney have decided not to appeal, said Robert Laing, the U.S. Embassy spokesman. Appeals in China virtually never change the verdict.

The trial was not open to foreign news reporters and had not been announced earlier by the government. It occurred at the lowest point in China-U.S. relations since the military violently put down the pro-democracy demonstrations in Beijing in 1989.

The White House had been hoping for progress in Wu's case while struggling to decide whether first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton should visit China in September to attend an international women's conference.

The Foreign Ministry would not immediately respond to requests for comment.

In Wyoming with vacationing President Clinton, deputy White House press secretary Ginny Terzano declined comment, saying, ``We are waiting for information from the United States Embassy in Beijing. There are only press reports at this time. Nothing has been said by the Chinese government.''

Wu was convicted of spying, posing as a government worker and illegally obtaining, buying and providing state secrets to foreigners, Xinhua reported. The crimes of spying and leaking state secrets are punishable by death.

Wu, a U.S. citizen, was dedicated to exposing China's extensive penal colonies. He emigrated in 1985 after serving 19 years in labor camps for criticizing the Communist Party.

He returned to China several times, posing variously as a businessman, a worker from Shanghai visiting camp guard friends or a Chinese policeman to document forced prison labor and the use of organs from executed prisoners in transplants.

Wu was taken into custody June 19 trying to enter China from Kazakhstan and was formally arrested July 8 on charges of spying. He later was taken to Wuhan, a city in central Hubei province.

The brief report from the state-run news service gave no other details about the case. A U.S. Embassy spokesman said he had no further information.

Wu was well known in Washington as a frequent witness at congressional hearings on Chinese human rights. His testimony helped alert customs officials to the import of Chinese goods produced by prison labor, a violation of U.S. law. including prisoners forced to stand waist-deep in vats of chemicals used to treat animal hides.

In addition to the Wu case, Sino-U.S. relations have been hurt by Chinese missile tests near Taiwan as well as disputes over Chinese missile sales and human rights practices.

In June, China was angered by Washington's decision to allow Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui to attend a Cornell University reunion in Ithaca, N.Y. China claims Lee has been seeking diplomatic recognition of Taiwan.

Mrs. Clinton had delayed a decision about whether to participate in the U.N. women's conference, apparently in hopes of seeing progress in Wu's case.

Republican congressional leaders urged Mrs. Clinton to boycott the meeting to protest China's human rights abuses. Wu's wife, Ching Lee Wu, also urged Mrs. Clinton not to attend as long as Wu was being held.

Mrs. Wu came out of the couple's Milpitas, Calif., home Wednesday night after hearing the news and read a statement to reporters.

``We do not know if the Chinese government intends to expel him soon or after serving his sentence,'' she said.

``We continue to believe that it would be in the best interest of China, the U.S. and Harry that he be expelled immediately and returned home,'' she said.

The Wu conviction came the day before Undersecretary of State Peter Tarnoff was due in Beijing to try to repair frosty relations.