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Chinese defector says U.S. turned him away






Chinese defector says U.S. turned him away

Diplomat in Australia sought asylum

SYDNEY: The Chinese diplomat who defected here two weeks ago had sought political asylum at the United States Embassy, and was summarily turned away, the defector, Chen Yonglin, said in an interview on Monday.

Chen, a career diplomat whose father was killed during the Cultural Revolution, said he called the U.S. Embassy in Canberra, the Australian capital, and followed up with a fax, after his asylum claim had been abruptly rebuffed by Australian officials, an action that has created a political storm here.

In an interview, Chen, who walked out of the Chinese Consulate in Sydney on May 26, spoke about his decision to defect, which he said was not a precipitous action, but the culmination of a growing dissatisfaction with his government''''s policies since the Tiananmen Square killings.

His decision was supported by his wife, Jin Ping, a lawyer, who said during the interview that she had been forced to work in a rural area where she witnessed forced sterilizations and abortions.

"My wife, my 6-year old daughter and I are now in a desperate status," Yongling, whose principal duties here were to spy on Falun Gong and pro-democracy activists, wrote in the fax to the American embassy.


have no choice but seeking the only hope of political asylum of the United States," he wrote. "I desperately hope to meet one of the U.S. missions officials in Australia." He attached a copy of the front page of his passport and gave his cell phone number.

There was to be no meeting. Later that day, Chen received a call from an American Embassy official, whose name he said he could not recall, who told him to contact the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

A spokeswoman for the American Embassy in Canberra declined to comment on Chen''''s request for asylum, and would neither confirm or deny if he had even made one.

Chen said that he had timed his decision to defect to coincide with events coming up to mark the anniversary of the Tiananmen protests. He had discussed the step for a long time with his wife, he said.

She, too, had been a student activist, while studying law in Shanghai, and after Tiananmen, she had been sent to a rural area for "re-education." She was assigned to work in a family planning program, she said.

One woman she had to work with was eight months pregnant with her second child, when forced into a hospital for an abortion.

She escaped, was caught and brought back, an operation was performed, and the baby boy, born alive, was then killed by the doctors, Jin said.

Her experiences had been so traumatic that after she and Chen married in 1992 - they had been high school sweethearts - she was not sure that she wanted children, and it was six years before their daughter, Fang Rong, was born.

During the interview, Fang Rong, her hair in a pony tail, entertained herself, drawing with a pencil and bounding around the room.

The Chens were accompanied by Jennifer Zeng, who took notes and acted as an interpreter when Chen or Jin got stuck.

Zeng is a Falun Gong practitioner and the author of "Witnessing History: One Woman''''s Fight for Freedom and Falun Gong."

At times, the three would converse in English before he would answer aquestion.

Chen said he was not a member of Falun Gong. In his letter to Australian authorities seeking asylum, Chen wrote, "Falun Gong may be a cult, but its practitioners are a social vulnerable group and innocent people."

Chen grew up in Zhejiang Province, just south of Shanghai. When he was 3 years old, his father, an accomplished calligrapher, was accused of antirevolutionary activity, hauled off by Red Guards, enforcers of Mao''''s China, held and beaten for two weeks, before he died, Chen said.

As a boy, Chen fed the pigs, raised goats, and gathered chicken eggs, to help his mother, a primary school teacher, provide for the family.

"She encouraged me to study hard," he said.

He did well on a national exam, and decided to become to join the foreign service for the simple reason that he thought it would result in steady employment, he said. He was attending a university in Beijing in the late 1980s, and was part of the student democracy movement, as was his wife-to-be.

During Tiananmen, he worked as an interpreter for NBC News, he said, and joined the demonstrations when he was not working.

After Tiananmen, he was sent for 6 months of re-education, he recalled, laughing nervously. Participants were forced to study Marx and socialist doctrine, and were made to listen to the government''''s justification for the crack-down at Tiananmen.

Having completed that, he was assigned to the North America-Oceana desk in the Foreign Ministry, where he said he did mind-numbing work copying documents by hand that were given to him by his boss.

When there was an opening in Fiji, he took it. "I was quite eager to leave that environment inside China," he said. "There was no freedom."

In Fiji, his primary duties related to Taiwan, he said, making sure that Fiji sided with China on the Taiwan issue. He said this objective explained why China had embassies in many small Pacific nations, such as Vanautu and Papua New Guinea.

In 1995, he joined the Communist Party. He was not a true believer, he said, but it was the only way to advance, and he thought there was still a chance for change in the Chinese system.

By the time he was posted to Sydney, in 2001, his hopes that China might change voluntarily had been all but dashed, he said.

His job here was to monitor the activities of dissidents, and almost from the beginning, it weighed on his conscience.

"It''''s dirty work," he said.

After initially denying that Chen had applied for political asylum, the foreign minister of Australia, Alexander Downer, admitted that Chen had, and that it had been rejected.

Chen''''s case has been most assiduously pursued by Senator Bob Brown, leader of the Australian Greens, and he has been joined by conservative politicians and commentators.

By turning down his asylum request, and playing down Chen''''s intelligence value, "the government is trying to save official China''''s face," Greg Sheridan, a hard-liner on foreign policy, wrote last weekend in The Australian.


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   09/27/08 05:21:59 PM