Human Rights in China.
Chen visa thanks to Australian people
The granting of permanent visas for Chinese diplomat and defector, Chen Yonglin and his wife and daughter is due to huge public sentiment which swept in to rescue him, Greens Senator Bob Brown said today.
The Chen family is delighted and wants to thank the Australian people. Mr Chen says he is looking forward to their new life in Australia.
“Before Chen went public, the government ignored his pleas for diplomatic asylum. The Department of Immigration, dangerously, did worse than nothing – it revealed his defection to Beijing.
“The Minister for Foreign Affairs denied having Chen’s request for asylum until the public evidence showed this claim to be fraudulent.
“Chen and his family will be valuable Australian residents. I congratulate him. His conscience and his courage have been rewarded by this nation if not its government,” Senator Brown said.
To understand why Mr. Yonglin getting this Visa is so important, and why Senator Brown's thoughts are shared by many Australians, we need to look back through the history of this case (with the help of WikiPedia):
Chen had been a university student in Beijing during the pro-democracy movement that ultimately led to the Tiananmen Square protests, in which several of his friends were wounded. He underwent "re-education" after the subsequent crackdown on dissidents, and joined the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1991. This culminated in his posting as the consul for political affairs in the Chinese consulate in Sydney, Australia. In this position, Chen has stated that he was responsible for monitoring Chinese political dissidents living in Australia. He also reportedly had access to highly classified information on Chinese intelligence activities in Australia. Chen has claimed that he had "gone easy" on dissidents and members of Falun Gong and had not reported some actions in protest at China's policies towards political dissent. He has also suggested that the Chinese government was becoming suspicious of his activities, and that as a result, he fears for his safety if returned to China.
In late May 2005 (there have been conflicting reports as to the exact day), Chen walked out of the consulate and went into hiding with his wife and six-year old daughter. He reportedly met an officer from the Department of Immigration on May 26, and then a representative from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade on May 31. Chen has stated that he was told at the latter meeting that his request for political asylum had been rejected, but that he could apply for a protection visa. The story broke to the international media on June 3, when Chen contacted The Weekend Australian newspaper, sparking fears of a serious diplomatic incident between the two nations.
On June 4, though he allegedly feared being kidnapped, Chen come out of hiding in order to address a rally commemorating the 16th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. During his speech, he claimed that he would "reveal everything he knows" if he was allowed to remain in Australia. He also claimed that the Chinese government had more than a thousand agents in Australia, and that they were responsible for kidnapping Chinese dissidents and returning them to China. Furthermore, Chen claimed that in one particular case in early 2000, Chinese agents in Sydney had kidnapped a student, Lan Meng, to force his dissident father to return to China. The father, Lan Fu, did return in 2000 to face prosecution and a death sentence, but the charges stemmed from a US$6 billion smuggling racket in Xiamen, where Lan Fu had been deputy mayor, rather than from any dissident activity. Lan's lawyer, Zhu Yongping denied that kidnapping played a part in his client's voluntary return, insisting his client had given himself up voluntarily.
Within a few days, China's Ambassador to Australia, Fu Ying, appeared on the ABC program Lateline. What followed were some of the most obvious lies I have ever seen - it was painful to watch Madam Fu on there. Here's an example:
Defection attempt won't harm relations: ambassador
Reporter: Tony Jones
TONY JONES: Well, let's move on if we can. He says that China has thousands of agents in Australia. How many agents do you have in fact?
MADAME FU: I read the story from the 'Australian' by Mr Stewart, who said that China has espionage operation of 3,000 people. The focus is the Australian Army. Australian Army has about 50,000 people. That's 1 for almost 20 soldiers. I don't know why we need to do that. And for an operation of 3,000 spies, that costs a lot. Our per capita GDP is only 1,000 and Australia's is 27,000 US dollars. It takes a lot of people of people working to support such a huge spy network. And for Australia, there are only 20,000 people in this country. If we need 3,000 spies for Australia, how many do we need for United States, for other countries? And what China - how much China is going to pay for all these spies? I think all our farmers, our workers would be doing nothing but supporting the spies overseas. I think it's very absurd. China is too busy with itself. We are a poor country. We have 70 [per cent] people living in rural area. We are very busy, very, very busy working to develop our own country. So these kind of stories is really very absurd.
TONY JONES: Ambassador, it is inconceivable, isn't it, though, that a country as powerful and influential as China would not have an independent way of gathering intelligence in a country like Australia. You must have, presumably, some agents?
MADAME FU: I think in the Cold War period, when we are on different side of the front line of Cold War, people treat each other - the countries treat each other as enemies. So at that time, I know some countries have huge espionage operations against the other side. But China doesn't see any threat from Australia. Australia doesn't see China as a threat. We have lots of channels open how to exchange views and information. I don't see why we need espionage on Australia.
If anyone doubted that China did have a spy network operating in Australia, there was little doubt remaining after the conclusion of that interview. Say what you will about politicians, when it comes to lies Madam Fu is in a class of her own (with about half the skill). After this interview:
On June 10 Chen appeared to retract [the kidnapping] accusation, commenting only that "I said that in fear, and I don't want to talk about it again." On June 22, however, Chen provided further details about the alleged kidnapping, naming Zhang Jin, Deputy Director of the Third Department of the Chinese Ministry of Public Security, as the official responsible for the abduction. The Weekend Australian has found that Lan Meng, then 18, was living in the Melbourne suburb of Sandringham from November 1999 until November 2000, for at least three months before Lan Fu returned to China, casting further doubt on the story that Lan Meng was kidnapped and taken to China, leading up to Lan Fu's return. It is believed that Lan Meng and Lan Fu's wife, Lai Chongxin are still in Australia, and Lan's wife was also reported to be on China's wanted list in connection with the Xiamen scandal.
After the June 4th rally, Chen once again went into hiding, having claimed that he was under constant surveillance and in fear of his life. The future of his claim for a protection visa remains unclear, as it places Australia in a difficult situation regarding its trade relationship with China - which in turn has its own concerns about its human rights reputation in the leadup to the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. While the government has so far been reluctant to comment on the issue, saying only that he will receive no special treatment Shadow Minister for Immigration Laurie Ferguson and prominent trade unionist Bill Shorten have both been particularly vocal in their defence of Chen, demanding that the government put trade concerns aside and review his case, comparing it to the Petrov Affair during the Cold War. On June 5, the Chinese embassy released a statement concerning its version of events, claiming that Chen was due to return home and had made up the claims in the hope that he would be allowed to stay, and attempting to alleviate fears that Chen would be harmed if he returned to China. On June 7 Chen's claims were supported by Hao Fengjun, a former police officer with the 610 Bureau, a special security force established to eradicate Falun Gong by whatever means they deem necessary. The Chinese government responded by claiming that documents seized from Hao's home in China had shown that he was a low-level policeman suspected of corruption. Hao's lawyer, Bernard Collaery, attacked the claims, however, claiming that they were "standard (Chinese) tactics."
On June 20, Chen participated in World Refugee Day rallies, calling for the Australian government to release detainees and drop its policy of mandatory detention. On June 21, Chen was granted a temporary "bridging" visa, while his case is under review.
On July 7, a Chinese defector in Canada using the name Han Guangsheng emerged to support Chen and Hao's spying allegations. During his interview on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation show Lateline, Han explained "I do know that the Chinese Communist Party sent people to collect intelligence information, including Chinese Embassy and Consulate staff. Some of the reporters coming from state Chinese media and visiting scholars are also given special spying tasks to carry out." The fifty-two-year-old defector has been denied political asylum by the Canadian government due to suspicion on prior human rights abuses. This appears consistent with Han's claim that he was in charge of Shenyang's public security and labor camps before his defection.
On that same day China's ambassador, Fu Ying, condemned Chen for "attacking his motherland" with "allegations and noise" for the sole purpose of living in a wealthier country. She warned that many more would follow Chen, if he was allowed to relocate to Australia, and she lamented the "underlying prejudice" revealed by those who supported Chen.
These condemnations by Madam Fu were truely bizzare, to say the least. During these statements, Fu equated oppostion to foreign countries opperating large spy networks in Australia, or opposition to the Chinese Government's undemocratic human rights abuses with casting a shadow on reforms in China! Here's an excerpt of her bizzare statement (from The Age):
Chinese ambassador accuses Chen of greed
Addressing the inaugural Australia-China Coal Summit, Ms Fu said Mr Chen appeared to hate China, adding: "But China, the country he dislikes now, offered him the best a Chinese young man can have.
"Now that's not good enough for him anymore, he wants something better, he wants Australia which has 27 times higher per capita GDP," she said.
"He has had to go to the extent of attacking his motherland in order to be accepted in another country," she said.
"There are people like him - he's not the first and he will not be the last - there will be quite a few.
"But if those people, if they can succeed, can be followed by many more."
Ms Fu said some sections of the Australian media and human rights protesters did not want closer economic ties with China.
She said many of them had "made a living out of being anti-China" and rejected claims that close economic ties would see Australia lose its sovereignty.
"I am quite confident that most people in Australia who have been to China and who have seen the progress of the reform will not easily be influenced by allegations and noise," she said.
"But these problems do reveal the underlying prejudice among some sections of the public and they can influence our normal working order and cast a shadow on the positive progress we are making.
Critics of the Chinese Government's undemocratic practices, like Senator Brown, saw Fu's eccentric attack for what it was: a brazen last minute smear campaign by a dictatorial government, scared that a whistleblower was about to spill the beans. The call was also made for the authoritarian Chinese government to explain the erratic comments of its ambassador:
7th July 05
China’s angry ambassador Madam Fu Ying was invited to elaborate on her outburst in Brisbane today when the Senate committee inquires into the defection of diplomat Chen Yonglin in two weeks time, Greens Senator Bob Brown said today.
"As well as her condemnation of Mr Chen, I would certainly like to hear her talk about the 250 000 prisoners in ‘education with labour’ camps in China," Senator Brown said.
"Her vilification of Mr Chen probably indicates she has given up trying to get him back to China by fair means or foul.
"Chen Yonglin has repeatedly said how much he loves China but dislikes the authoritarian dictatorship in Beijing. Madam Fu’s outburst will not undermine his love of country," Senator Brown said.
Anyway, congratulations to Chen who, on July 8 (with his wife, and his 6-year-old daughter) were granted permanent protection visas by the Immigration Department. It's good to see common sense has finally prevailed. Hopefully we can now get to the bottom of foreign spy network opperating out of Australia.