Monday, June 06, 2005

Archival Rescue 55 ~ Chen defection

Downer could grant diplomat a visa: lawyer
June 6, 2005 - 7:18AM Sydney Morning Herald

Foreign Minister Alexander Downer has the power to grant a a Chinese diplomat seeking asylum in Australia a special political asylum visa, an immigration lawyer says.

David Manne, a lawyer and coordinator of the Refugee and Immigration Legal Centre, says Mr Downer could take the unusual step of intervening in the case of Chen Yonglin, who says he fears for his life after walking out of the Chinese Consulate-General in Sydney 11 days ago.

"There's a very rare visa under the migration legislation called a territorial asylum visa, it's commonly known as political asylum, and it's generally by the minister, usually in fact by the foreign minister," Mr Manne told ABC radio.

"That shouldn't be confused with refugee status, it's different, but presumably it's for public positions, high public positions, for instance politicians or diplomats who need protection in Australia.

"As far as I'm aware there have only been a handful of visas granted on this basis in the past 45 years."

Mr Chen came out of hiding on Saturday to speak at a rally in Sydney at which he said the Beijing government had 1,000 spies in Australia and Chinese people were being abducted and taken back to China.

The Chinese mission in Sydney said Mr Chen was lying and made up the stories because he was due to return home after four years in Australia and wanted to stay.

The Australian head of the Federation for a Democratic China, Chin Jin, said Mr chen was feeling safer now he had exposed himself to the media.

"He feels okay now, he feels a bit safer then previous days," he told ABC radio.

"After his media public exposure and a lot of media coverage and being with us, he feels a bit safer."



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