Three years and one day after her husband was detained in Iran, Hua Qu issued a plea for President Donald Trump and the international community to help free him.
“I implore Iran, the United States, my home country China and other members of the international community to secure the release of this innocent man, Xiyue Wang, and make our family whole again,” she said Thursday at the National Press Club in Washington, DC.
Xiyue Wang, a Princeton University PhD student, was in Tehran doing research when he was arrested on espionage charges in August 2016. He was sent to Iran’s notorious Evin Prison and sentenced to 10 years.
“My husband is an academic researcher. He’s a father, husband. He is not a political figure and he is definitely not a spy,” she said.
Qu said she feels her husband is being used as a “bargaining chip” in a “geopolitical dispute” between the United States and Iran. She said she was not aware of any dialogue between the US or interlocutors and Iran on the case. Because the US and Iran do not have diplomatic relations, the Swiss provide consular services to Wang and report back to the State Department. Qu also said the Chinese government “would like to help.”
While Qu noted that she is in regular contact with the State Department, including Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs Robert O’Brien, she is looking for the administration to do more. She referenced the fact that Trump had dispatched O’Brien to Sweden on behalf of A$AP Rocky, noting that the arrested rapper “quickly got released.”
“I believe the ordeal of my husband and other unjust detention cases deserve the same level of attention,” she said.
Qu said she had requested a meeting with “senior leadership,” but didn’t receive a response. In a statement Friday, National Security Council spokesman Garrett Marquis said “the families of US hostages have had the opportunity to engage senior Administration officials.”
“The US government will continue to advocate on behalf of Americans wrongfully detained until all are released. We will not allow Iran to use the detention of Americans as tool of statecraft,” he said.
State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said Thursday, “We are going to continue, every day that we all draw breath here at the State Department, to fight for our Americans, to get our American hostages back.”
Qu cheered the support of the academic community for Wang’s case. On Wednesday, Sarah-Jane Leslie, dean of the Graduate School at Princeton University, called for Wang’s immediate release.
“Many of the graduate students who entered Princeton with him completed their degrees this year; it is well past time for him to be permitted to return to his studies and complete his degree,” she wrote in a statement.
Qu said that she is worried for her husband’s health and safety. She sends him academic books to read to provide him “a few moments of comfort amid the horrible conditions in Evin Prison,” where Qu said he shares a cell with more 25 other people.
When Wang went to Iran in 2016, he left behind both his wife and his young son, Shaofan. Qu said that when she is able to talk to Wang, he brings up memories of their son – “the funny sounds he made when he was a baby and the beautiful afternoons that Shaofan rode on his shoulders walking home from daycare.” But Shaofan is six years old now, and Qu said that he has little memory of those times with his father.
“I continue to pray that when Shaofan blows out his birthday candles next year, Xiyue will be right there with us,” she said.
CNN’s Kylie Atwood contributed to this report.