A hundred students, faculty, and elected officials gathered to rally for Xiyue Wang.
Ethan Sterenfeld ’20
The Princeton graduate student has been detained in Iran since August 2016

About 100 students, faculty, and elected officials held a candlelight vigil in front of Frist Campus Center May 11 to rally for Xiyue Wang, a Princeton graduate student who has been detained in Iran since August 2016 on espionage charges.

“We miss him, we care for him, and we want him to come home,” said Sarah-Jane Leslie *07, dean of the Graduate School. “He was just doing his research, like any other student, like any one of us here.” She said University officials “continue to work day-by-day to secure his release and support his family. The work will not cease until he is home."

Wang, a fourth-year doctoral student in the history department, was sentenced to 10 years in prison after his arrest during a visit to Iran for research for his dissertation.

Sarah Carson, a graduate student and a colleague of Wang’s in the history department, said he had followed all necessary protocols during his time in Iran. “As historians, our work takes us all over the world, and many of us take leaps of faith during that process,” Carson said. “One of the thoughts that went through my mind was, ‘Could this have been me?’ ”

The event took place the same week that President Donald Trump announced that the United States would withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal and North Korea freed three Americans who had been held on espionage or other “hostile acts.”

“When we make it a priority in our diplomacy, when we prudently and in a solemn fashion use sanctions in a way that’s most likely to achieve a positive outcome, we can see the release of prisoners who are being unjustly incarcerated,” Rep. Christopher Smith, R-N.J., told the Princeton vigil. “One thing we can’t do is lose hope.”

Smith said he hoped Wang’s wife, Hua Qu, would appear at a congressional hearing to describe what had happened to her husband.

Qu appealed to President Trump for assistance in her husband’s release. “This week, we witnessed three former hostages in North Korea returning to their homeland. I really hope that President Trump can achieve a similar breakthrough in my husband’s situation. I sincerely hope he can achieve my husband’s release swiftly.”

Qu said Wang “is being held in the notorious Evin Prison, in an area that is mostly underground, cold and dark, overcrowded, and infested by bedbugs. As an American and a non-Muslim, Xiyue has been subjected to abuse and harsh interrogations by the Iranian authorities. He is in constant pain from health problems caused by these conditions. He is losing hope. Meanwhile it is harder and harder for our son to remember his father, and it’s hard for him to grow up with a mother that’s always sad and worried.”