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Chinese Ambassador responds to defection by Chen Yonglin; two Senators support plea for asylum.

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Monday 6 June 2005

Chinese Ambassador responds to defection by Chen Yonglin; two Senators support plea for asylum


MARK COLVIN: China's ambassador to Australia, Madame Fu Y ing, says Mr Chen has nothing to fear if he returns to China. 


Madame Fu says the death penalty only applies in the case of brutal murders and she doesn't know why he'd be jailed either if he went back to his homeland. 


The Ambassador says the real reason he's defecting is to seek a better life, and there's no need for him to tarnish China's reputation in order to stay in Australia. 


She's denied Mr Chen's claim that he's being followed. 


Madame Fu says that not even she, as Ambassador, has a security entourage. 


At the same time Labor and the minor parties are considering a Senate inquiry to investigate Mr Chen's treatment by the Federal Government. 


Alexandra Kirk reports from Canberra. 


ALEXANDRA KIRK: China's Ambassador to Australia, Madame Fu Ying, is articulate and forthright. Launching a book on business and investment opportunities for Australia and China, she took the initiative to directly respond to Mr Chen Yonglin's defection and firstly, recent claims that China is running up to 1,000 spies in Australia. 


FU YING: As an ambassador, I'm duty bound to help promote understanding, to help to build up trust among the people and I hope one day our people will know each other so well these kind of stories will find no reader, will find no believers.  


ALEXANDRA KIRK: On Mr Chen's defection, Madame Fu hopes he can find a better way to achieve his aim.  


FU YING: Some of our staff who do not like the job anymore resign from Ministry and they left the country. There are better ways, normal ways to do so. There is no need for a person to tarnish the face of the country, the image of the country in order to get citizenship in another country.  


I think China has moved on a long way from what it was like in 1970s. China is not a country behind the bamboo curtain any more. It's a normal, friendly country like any country in the world.  


ALEXANDRA KIRK: Questioned by journalists in Canberra, Madame Fu rejects claims that Mr Chen fears persecution if he returns to China. 


FU YING: I don't see there is any reason China will punish him. There are laws which would guarantee his freedom but can you guarantee that he is not going to do anything that was against the law? But I think for Chinese citizens like, including Mr Chen, everybody has the right, legally guaranteed right, to apply for foreign citizenship.  


ALEXANDRA KIRK: As to whether Mr Chen ever expressed concerns in Australia about his political views and how they sit with China:  


FU YING: I haven't heard anything. Either he's an excellent actor or he is doing things some other people told him to do. I haven't heard anything from him and he was promoted First Secretary only last year. I haven't seen any sign of persecution or pressure on him.  


The stories about security people chasing him is very, I think it's quite a wild story. As an ambassador I myself, I can tell you that I don't have security for myself. Where do we find the security people to chase him? I think he's just making it up.  


ALEXANDRA KIRK: Employing humour as well as diplomacy, Madame Fu says she wished she knew how big China's spy network in Australia really is. 


FU YING: I stand to be enlightened from whoever knows it, whoever has a knowledge, whoever knows the name, I would love to know. I think it has become a very interesting point and a joke, if I cannot attend a dinner from my colleague in a diplomatic call if I say I'm busy, I'm sorry, can't come. He say oh, it's OK, busy with your spy network.  


ALEXANDRA KIRK: The Ambassador says she'd prefer Mr Chen resign and return to China if he doesn't like his job and apply for foreign citizenship from there.  


FU YING: Go through the normal way. It's much better for him.  


ALEXANDRA KIRK: She says the former consul for political affairs need not be afraid. 


FU YING: I feel a bit sorry for him. He lost so much weight when I saw him on the TV. He must be under terrible pressure.  


Death penalty is a kind of civil penalty. It's very rare now. I think China is seriously reconsidering this kind of punishment and it applies to people who kill people in a very brutal manner.  


But for this kind of situation I think it's, as I said, China has moved on. It's not 1970s. China's not behind the bamboo curtain. I feel very uncomfortable people still think that way.  


ALEXANDRA KIRK: And she doesn't think he'd be jailed either. 


FU YING: He hasn't committed a civil crime. I don't know why he would be in jail. He is creating this kind of impression I think, in order to gain sympathy, maybe, maybe gain sympathy so he can stay. 


ALEXANDRA KIRK: The Greens and the Democrats are now pushing for a Senate inquiry into the Chen case. 


Greens leader Bob Brown today wrote to the Foreign Minister Alexander Downer.  


BOB BROWN: I'm simply stating in unequivocal terms that Mr Chen should be given asylum and protection in our country. I have no doubt that he would already have had asylum and protection afforded had he been, had he absconded in the United States.  


The whole feeling I got was of a fob off.  


ALEXANDRA KIRK: Democrats leader Lyn Allison is hopeful she can garner enough support in the Senate to set up the inquiry. 


LYN ALLISON: We're talking with the Labor Party right now about the words for the terms of reference for the inquiry and I'm confident that we'll reach agreement with them.  


ALEXANDRA KIRK: The Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer's office, says it's received Senator Brown's fax, saying Mr Chen's case is being handled by the Immigration Department, the normal process for handling applications for protection visas. 


As for Senator Brown's demand to Mr Downer for immediate protection for Mr Chen, the Immigration Department says it's unable to comment. 


And on the claim that a departmental official contacted the Chinese consulate when Mr Chen first turned up on the day he defected, the Immigration Department says it, quote, "passed no information about Mr Chen's intention to remain in Australia to the Chinese authorities," because there's an obligation not to disclose private information about applicants.  


The Department says, "well before this person was an applicant for a visa, the Department did contact the consulate to confirm his claim he was on the staff because he was seeking to speak to the Department's State Director in New South Wales".  


MARK COLVIN: Alexandra Kirk in Canberra.