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No Right Turn: Asylum for Chen Yonglin

Asylum for Chen Yonglin

Eleven days ago, Chinese diplomat Chen Yonglin walked out of the Chinese consulate in Sydney and requested political asylum. He is currently in hiding somewhere in Australia, but in an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald [Reg Req], he said that the Australian government had hung him out to dry, refusing his application and contacting the Chinese authorities. I guess trade really is more important than any commitment to human rights in Australia.

Mr Chen has a well-founded fear of persecution - if not for his going easy on dissidents and Falun Gong members while working in the consulate, then for his activities since. On Saturday he addressed a protest against the Tiananmen Square massacre in Sydney and criticised the Chinese government's human rights record; he also accused them of kidnapping dissidents from Australia.

While China's ambassador to Canberra says he has nothing to fear if he returns, that is hardly believable given the Chinese government's brutal treatment of those who oppose it. Mr Chen has already been subjected to "re-education" once for speaking out against his government in Tiananmen Square sixteen years ago. It is unlikely they would be lenient with someone they view as a recidivist.

If Australia is too cowardly to grant asylum to someone fleeing a repressive regime, then we should step in. The New Zealand government should offer Mr Chen refuge here. As a nation supposedly committed to freedom, human rights, and helping those in need, we can hardly do anything less.

Yes, it would be bailing out the Australians again, but as with the Tampa incident, it is also the right thing to do. And that should be all the reason we need.


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