FOREIGN AFFAIRS: by Peter WestmoreNews Weekly
Behind the defection of a Chinese diplomat
, June 18, 2005
The defection of the First Secretary at the Chinese Consulate in Sydney raises major questions for Australia.The defection of the First Secretary at the Chinese Consulate in Sydney raises major questions for Australia.
Chen Yonglin sought permission to remain in Australia, after stating that he had been employed in the consulate to spy on Falun Gong, a Chinese meditation movement which has been relentlessly persecuted in China.
Chen also alleged that 1,000 Chinese people in Australia supplied information to the Chinese Government, and that some Australian citizens of Chinese origin had been forcibly returned to China.
His application for political asylum was hopelessly mucked up by the Immigration Department, which called the Chinese Consulate in Sydney to confirm that Chen was who he claimed to be, tipping them off about his intended defection!
While the detail of his claims have not been established, members of Falun Gong in Sydney said that they were well aware that Chen was spying on them, by attending their meetings and taking photographs of participants.
Nor is there any doubt that Falun Gong is persecuted in China, despite claims to the contrary by China's Ambassador, Madame Fu Ying. The movement has been ruthlessly persecuted for years.
Amnesty International - in no way a pro-Western organisation - has documented this abuse. In August 2002, John Greenwell, from Amnesty International Australia, delivered a speech about Chinese political repression at the National Press Club in Canberra.
He said, "What we have witnessed over the past three years is not some sporadic outburst of brutality by an irritated and authoritarian government, but organised and systematic repression designed to destroy once and for all non-conforming belief.
"In all, some 50,000 practitioners have been detained in detention centres, prisons or labour camps. The persecution of practitioners in such labour camps as Masanjia, Wanjia and more recently in Changchun City has been horrific.
"Now a striking feature of the persecution over this lengthy period has been the absence of a collective and public condemnation by those countries, including Australia, which proclaim the universality of international human rights.Treatment condemned
"In April this year, Amnesty International Australia asked the government to approach like-minded countries to join with Australia in a public condemnation of the treatment of the Falun Gong. That request was rejected. My brief comments this morning examine that response.
"But first let it be noted there is no question about the facts. The Australian Government accepts that the Falun Gong has been repressed and that China has committed very serious human rights violations."
Criticising the Federal Government's "dialogue" on human rights with China, conducted annually in Canberra, he said, "What have we witnessed since the inception of the dialogue process? The unrelieved persecution of Falun Gong; the destruction in 1998 and 1999 of political dissent.
"The China Democracy Party, which sought to express dissent peacefully, is proscribed and its leaders imprisoned. Xu Wenli, Wang Youcai, Qin Yongmin, She Wanbao are all locked up for terms rather longer than a gang rapist would receive in this country.
"But let us go further afield to the deaths in custody, the death penalty, the procedural abuses of the strike hard campaigns, the treatment of minorities, the nuns in Drapchi prison or the Uighurs in Xinjiang, the Protestants or Catholics - in whatever area the situation is no better and is in some respects worse since the secret bilateral dialogue began five years ago.
"Only the release of the occasional high-profile prisoner - a Wei Jing Sheng, a Wang Dan or a Ngawang Choephel timed to coincide with a Presidential visit.
"But it is said that outside the dialogue, representations are made at ministerial or diplomatic levels on behalf of Falun Gong. We cannot of course know what has been said.
"As a matter of literal accuracy, Amnesty does not question such representations that have been made. But it is not consonant with common sense to suppose that a diplomat will, with the slightest degree of firmness, be exhorting his Chinese counterpart about Falun Gong one day and discussing an economically important trade negotiation the next. The two things are incompatible."
Further, China runs extensive espionage operations around the world. Last month, Taiwan arrested 17 military officers and civilians on suspicion of passing military secrets to China.
Senior officers said information leaked from the Ministry of National Defence included details about Chinese military exercises.
Reporting on the reorganisation of Australia's intelligence services, Cameron Stewart wrote in The Australian
(June 3, 2005), that the latest generation of spies "come from Beijing and they represent the unseen arm of China's economic and military modernisation".
He said that their primary aim is to steal the secrets of military-related technology, especially in the areas of aeronautics, shipbuilding, electronic eavesdropping and weapons systems, including long-range missiles.Sinister connections
"In Australia, as elsewhere in the West," he added, "the term 'Chinese takeaway' now has more sinister connections. Senior government sources tell The Australian
that the number of Chinese agents in Australia has increased sharply during the past decade.
"In a fundamental changing of the guard in Australian espionage, their ranks outnumber those of any other country, including Russia, which has been relegated to second spot on ASIO's counter-espionage watch list."
In fact, there are 39 diplomats accredited to the Chinese Embassy in Canberra, compared to 22 for the UK, and 19 from Indonesia, making it one of the largest diplomatic missions in Australia.
Cameron Stewart said, "For Western intelligence agencies, including ASIO, this new enemy is posing a significant challenge to their resources and capabilities.
"By coincidence or design, China's ramping up of its intelligence activities abroad has come as Western intelligence services have been distracted by the far greater threat of terrorism."
The defection of Chen Yonglin in Sydney highlights the danger to Australia posed by Chinese intelligence agents.