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Diplomat's defection attempt creates dilemma -

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Diplomat's defection attempt creates dilemma for Govt

Reporter: Jo McKenna

KERRY O'BRIEN: Fifty years after the Petrov affair, another high-profile political defection has
created a diplomatic storm and a tough dilemma for the Australian Government. This time, the man at
the centre of attention is Chen Yonglin, the first secretary at the Chinese Consulate General in
Sydney. Eleven days ago, he walked out of his mission seeking political asylum because he said he
could no longer support his country's persecution of dissidents. But he claims Australian
authorities refused his asylum request and says they repeatedly urged him to return to his
consulate. Mr Chen's defection attempt comes at a particularly sensitive time for Australia, which
is trying to strengthen economic and political ties with China, our third-biggest trading partner.
While Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone says Mr Chen will be treated like any other asylum
seeker, critics say the government is putting trade ties ahead of human rights. Jo McKenna reports.

CHEN YONGLIN, CHINESE DIPLOMAT: I will be in prison for maybe life sentence or executed.

FU YING, CHINESE AMBASSADOR: I don't see there's any reason China will punish him. There are laws
which would guarantee his freedom. (APPLAUSE)

JO McKENNA: Just who the Australian Government chooses to believe will decide the fate of Chen
Yonglin.

CHEN YONGLIN: Thanks, everybody, for giving me this opportunity.

JO McKENNA: On Saturday, at a rally to commemorate the 16th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square
massacre, the career diplomat publicly declared his desire to betray his government and remain in
Australia.

CHEN YONGLIN: I came here very - very unsafe, and I feel in desperate state.

JO McKENNA: It wasn't the first time that Chen Yonglin had made his intentions known. 10 days
earlier, he approached Australian immigration officials seeking political asylum for him, his wife
and child.

BRUCE BILLSON, PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS: As with any other person seeking asylum
in Australia, the merits of that claim will be processed by the Department of Immigration.

JO McKENNA: Chen Yonglin, a 37-year-old political attache at the consulate in Sydney, says he was
responsible for monitoring Falun Gong and pro-democracy activists for the past four years. He also
claims there are 1,000 Chinese spies operating in Australia, and the Chinese Government is
responsible for kidnapping Chinese nationals on Australian soil.

BRUCE BILLSON: These allegations are being made in the context of a refugee claim. They'll need to
be evaluated and tested through the normal processes, and we'll learn more about that as days come
by.

WARREN REED, FORMER INTELLIGENCE OFFICER: Mr Chen could be a very rich vein of gold for Australian
intelligence.

JO McKENNA: Former secret intelligence service officer Warren Reed believes the government has
missed a rare opportunity to learn more about Chinese intelligence operations in Australia.

WARREN REED: So the procedures are that you get someone alongside that person as quickly as you
can, preferably a trained intelligence officer, who can question that person and find out what
their motivation is for wanting to defect, and what they know, and what they're willing to hand
over.

FU YING: But what kind of secret has he betrayed apart from attacking his country, creating stories
of his country?

JO McKENNA: And yet, in a letter to immigration officials, Chen Yonglin outlined his surveillance
activities, and expressed remorse over what he'd done to members of Falun Gong, the spiritual
movement outlawed by the Chinese government.

CHEN YONGLIN: I feel guilty, at the beginning period, I followed very strictly the government
policy of persecuting Falun Gong people here.

JO McKENNA: Astoundingly, when Chen Yonglin approached Australia for asylum, stating he had access
to confidential documents, an immigration official telephoned the Chinese Consulate to verify the
diplomat's position.

VOICEOVER: Canberra - around the Soviet embassy unfolds an incredible story that has made world
headlines...

JO McKENNA: It was a very different story when Soviet diplomat Vladimir Petrov and his wife
defected to Australia in 1954 at the height of the Cold War. Exposing an extensive Soviet spy
network. It was considered a political coup for the Menzies Government. But Australia's present
close relationship with China makes a high-profile defection a thorny political problem.

PROFESSOR HUGH WHITE, STRATEGIC STUDIES CENTRE, ANU: I think the government is very anxious about
the broader relationship with China because it wants to build up a very big trading relationship.

JO McKENNA: Former top defence official Hugh White believes China's status as one of our biggest
trading part partners could explain why the government is treading carefully.

PROFESSOR HUGH WHITE: The Chinese have made it really quite explicit that in order to develop the
kind of economic and trade relationship that we hope to have with them in future, we will need to
be attentive to their wishes and interests and concerns on political and security issues.

JO McKENNA: Whatever the diplomatic and political stakes, Chen Yonglin and his family remain in
hiding as they await their fate. As they consult immigration lawyers about their application for a
protection visa, they are just another number in the long queue of asylum seekers.

CHEN YONGLIN: I hope the Australian people will - I believe Australia is a friendly country, with
friendly people, and a democratic country, and hope that Australian people can protect me in some
way so that I can stay here. I don't have to return to China, to be persecuted.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Jo McKenna with that unfolding story.