Protesters have rallied in Australia over the weekend urging the government to grant political asylum to a Chinese diplomat. Chen
|Senior Chinese diplomat Chen Yonglin, second from right, is surrounded by media in Sydney, Australia, Saturday, June 4, 2005|
quit his post at the Chinese consulate in Sydney last month, claiming Beijing's treatment of dissidents forced him to defect.
There were small but noisy demonstrations in Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide in support of Chen Yonglin.
The former diplomat has been in hiding for almost three weeks since walking out of the Chinese consulate in Sydney.
He said he decided to defect because he was troubled by his part in spying on practitioners of the Falun Gong spiritual movement in Australia.
Mr. Chen claimed China had kidnapped political opponents in Australia and taken them home for punishment. The former diplomat also alleged that Beijing had 1,000 spies working in Australia.
Mr. Chen has formally applied for political asylum, although Australian officials have still to make a decision on his application.
Speakers at this weekend's rallies have accused the Australian government of being more concerned about trade than Mr. Chen's human rights.
China is Australia's third-biggest trading partner worth $22 billion every year. The two countries recently began negotiations on a free-trade agreement.
Canberra has insisted that economic considerations will have no bearing on the Chen case.
Bob Brown, the leader of the Australian Greens, one of the minor opposition parties, says he can't understand why the government is taking so long to approve Mr. Chen's application.
"This is a democracy. Here we have a defector who has got extraordinary information about terrible things," said Mr. Green. "The protection of human rights in Australia should certainly take precedence. Is it legal for many people from the Chinese embassy or commissioned by the Chinese government to be spying on Australian citizens?"
More rallies in support of the fugitive diplomat are planned for Sydney and Perth in coming days.
Australia's Immigration Department is currently examining Mr. Chen's application for a refugee protection visa.
It's unclear how long the process will take.
Last week a second Chinese official emerged to seek political asylum in Australia. Hao Fengjun, a former secret policeman from northern China, claimed he was a member of China's internal security force working to crack down on dissidents. He too is seeking sanctuary in Australia.
Beijing has dismissed allegations made by these two Chinese officials and has described them as "total slander" and lies.