Teng Chunyan, a sect member and Chinese citizen who is a U.S. permanent resident, was convicted of disclosing national security information to foreigners, the diplomat told reporters on condition of anonymity.
Teng was sentenced Tuesday and her father confirmed the sentence to an official at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, the diplomat said. Neither Teng nor her husband, a U.S. citizen whom the diplomat would not identify, have signed waivers allowing the release of personal information about them, he said.
Prosecutors and officials at Beijing's No. 1 Intermediate People's Court did not respond to telephone queries seeking confirmation of the sentence.
A New York acupuncturist who joined Falun Gong in New Jersey last year, Teng entered China in early 2000 to gather information on the ban against Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa.
Using the pseudonym Hannah Li, Teng tipped off foreign reporters in China about sect members' protests against the ban on the group and arranged interviews with them.
A purported copy of her indictment, released by a Hong Kong-based rights group, specifically accused Teng of giving a digital camera to an accomplice, who then sneaked into a center outside Beijing where Falun Gong members were being held. Teng then allegedly gave foreign news media the film.
The secrecy that shrouded her case is typical in trials involving the vague and partly unpublished laws against spying. The 16-month-old crackdown against Falun Gong is among China's most sensitive political issues.
Teng faced up to 10 years in prison. Her relatively light sentence followed protests by the U.S. government. A State Department spokesman last week called Teng's case ``deeply disturbing.''
The U.S. Embassy raised her case with the Chinese government several times, hoping she would be allowed to return to the United States, the diplomat said. He said the embassy would continue to lobby China on her behalf.
Falun Gong grew to millions of members during the 1990s, offering what it claims are a health-giving exercise regimen and morally uplifting philosophy derived from Taoism, Buddhism and the somewhat offbeat ideas of its founder, Li Hongzhi, an ex-government grain clerk now living in the United States.
Alarmed by the size and organizational prowess of the group, China banned it in July 1999 as a dangerous cult and has sent hundreds of members to prison and labor camps. State media accuses the sect of conspiring against the government, cheating adherents and causing 1,500 deaths.