A Not So Warm Embrace "Down Under"

Thursday, June 09, 2005

A Not So Warm Embrace "Down Under"

The New York Times reports today:
It might be expected that when a senior Chinese diplomat expresses a desire to defect to a Western government, bringing claims of a vast spy network in that country, he would be warmly embraced, and whisked off for secret debriefings.

But that has not been the fate of Chen Yonglin, a 37-year-old career diplomat, who says that while a political officer at the Chinese Consulate in Sydney for the last four years his job was to monitor the activities of the Falun Gong, as well as pro-democracy and pro-Taiwan independence activists.

Rather than trumpet a prime intelligence catch, the Australian Government has done its best to distance itself from Mr. Chen, fearful of offending China, which has become a major buyer of Australia's minerals and resources.

... Australia's foreign minister, Alexander Downer, said that Mr. Chen's request for political asylum had been turned down. Mr. Downer added that Mr. Chen's request to remain under a protection visa, which is a lesser category than asylum, would be processed in the normal manner.

... Chinese spying in Australia has become the top concern at Australia's domestic intelligence agency, The Australian reported earlier this month. China has 40 registered diplomats here, which is one of the largest embassies in Australia, the newspaper said. Australia is one of the United States' most important intelligence partners, receiving more American intelligence than any country except perhaps Britain, American and Australian intelligence officials say.

... "Chen Yonglin could easily prove to be the most important official ever to defect from a Communist country to Australia," a columnist, Brian Toohey, who has long covered intelligence matters, wrote in The Australian Financial Review. "He should be grabbed with both hands."

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