Agam's Gecko
Wednesday, June 08, 2005
Chinese diplomat Chen Yonglin

he very public defection of a senior Chinese diplomat in Australia last weekend continues to embarrass the governments of both Australia and China. The kerfuffle kicked off on Saturday with Chen Yonglin's speech to a demonstration in Sydney, held to commemorate the Beijing massacre of June 4, 1989. With this, the timing couldn't have been better for the Chinese pro-democracy movement. However it couldn't have been worse for the Australian government, now deep in negotiations with the PRC on the creation of a free trade agreement. With each new piece of the story more questions arise over the Howard government's handling of the matter, and whether economic considerations are weighing more heavily than ethical ones.

Mr. Chen has been described in the news stories as the "first secretary and consul for political affairs" at the Chinese consulate in Sydney. In other words he held a very senior post, and his defection is a political bombshell for the CCP. Reported first in the Weekend Australian, the saga had begun more than a week earlier when Mr. Chen walked out of the PRC mission and never looked back. Since that time, he has been moving between safe houses with assistance from pro-democracy friends in the Chinese community, fearing for the safety of his family (wife and six year old daughter). And despite his knowledge that Chinese agents were already searching for him, he showed real courage to show up and speak at the June 4 memorial.

The diplomat had contacted Australia's Department of Immigration, asking for shelter in the form of a "protection visa". In addition to the information he will be able to provide about the PRC's surveillance and infiltration of exiled Chinese dissidents, pro-democracy groups, adherents of the banned (in China) Falun Gong meditation group, Tibetan exiles and Australia-based Tibet support groups (all of which was under his purview as political consul), he has also offered information about a large network of Chinese spies who live in Australia as students and business people. He claims to have information about people being kidnapped by Chinese agents and spirited back to China.

Why the sudden change of heart? Perhaps it wasn't so sudden. He had been a supporter of the pro-democracy movement in China since his university days, and had participated in the Tiananmen movement himself. After the slaughter and subsequent political crackdown, he was sent off for "re-education" and thereafter was deemed sufficiently corrected to join the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This re-grooving process may not be quite as effective as the Party cadres might wish to believe, as Mr. Chen says he'd been going easy on the subjects of his monitoring activities, and as a silent protest was not reporting them to Beijing. It seems to me that his dissatisfaction with the current Chinese government only became stronger during his four years in Sydney. He was shortly to be recalled to China at the end of his posting period, something which his detractors are now using to make him appear as a selfish opportunist looking for an easy way to stay in Australia.

But what he's gone through these past few weeks would seem to be anything but an easy path to a residence visa -- in fact his own candor may well have damaged his chances, in that such revelations will certainly put his life in jeopardy should he be sent back. Australia now has regulations which restrict what asylum-seekers can say publicly, particularly if such statements can be seen to put them at greater risk of persecution.

But what was the government's response to his quiet request for shelter, more than a week before going public? He was denied the protection visa, and told he would be processed like any other foreign applicant for refugee status. Basically it was, your country wants you back, and we don't. Actually, the very first thing they did -- if you can believe it -- was to phone the Chinese consulate to verify if he was missing! This may have actually been the alert which set off the surreptitious manhunt by the consulate's security agents, because immediately afterwards, Chen says they began calling him on his mobile phone demanding his return.

Good grief, I would have expected the Aussies to be a bit more on the ball than this. Surely they could have verified his identity in a more circumspect manner -- as Currency Lad notes, like how about your own Foreign Affairs Department, or intelligence agency? At the end of that Australian story, Professor Paul Dibb, chairman of the ANU's Strategic and Defence Studies Centre says, "During the Cold War, if a Russian defector had told of Moscow's spying or kidnapping activities in this country we would have nabbed him and he would have got his visa quick-smart." They surely wouldn't have immediately phoned up the Soviet Union's embassy to alert them that there was a defector on the loose.

In a late development to this story, AP reports that a second Chinese official has confirmed Chen Yonglin's description of the Chinese spy network in Australia and other western countries. Hao Feng Jun, who had worked for the infamous "610 Bureau" (a specialised nationwide security division which is devoted to the persecution of the "dangerous" Falun Gong "illegal cult" -- the abduction, incarceration, torture and re-grooving of its members, and often, their murder) in Tianjin, spoke with ABC television's Lateline program last night. "I worked in the police office in the security bureau and I believe what Mr. Chen says is true," Mr. Hao told "Lateline" through an interpreter. He had come to Australia as a tourist in February and applied for asylum then. He also told the program, "As far as I know, they have spies in the consulate, but they also have a network -- spies they've sent out ... they send out businessmen and students to overseas countries as spies. They also infiltrate the Falun Gong and other dissident groups."

Also interviewed on ABC radio last night, was a friend of Mr. Hao who had helped him with translation services, reports The Australian this morning. Serene Luo said that her friend had provided secret documents to the immigration department, as part of his claim for asylum. She said the documents detailed the monitoring of dissident groups, such as Falun Gong. It sounds like he has documentation relevant to countries other than Australia, as she told ABC that not all his documents were handed over: "Only very few which related to Australian citizens and Falun Gong Association in Sydney (were handed over) because I think that related to his application."

I've read that some detractors of Chen Yonglin's original claims are taking the line that the allegation of 1,000 undercover spies in Australia is so outrageous, that he blows his credibility on that alone. The Chinese ambassador in Canberra might have thought it wasn't outrageous enough, because in an interview she evidently upped the number to 3,000, before saying how ridiculous it was. Those Australians who are more inclined to give the PRC the benefit of the doubt in preference to a young diplomat who demonstrates both principle and courage, might better have been paying attention to Chinese espionage in Australia issues only two days before Mr. Chen made his first statements in public. ASIO to hit China on spies. ASIO is the Aussie's own intelligence agency. (wai to Currency Lad)
Government sources say that although the number of foreign spies in Australia has not increased in recent years, the number of Chinese agents has risen to the point that they now outnumber the ranks of Russian spies that dominated Canberra during the Cold War.

"China would be the biggest now by a fair way ... they have built up their capabilities over the last 10 years and are more aggressive in their activities," a source said.
So this should come as no surprise to anyone. Also to be expected are the PRC's predictable responses. "To achieve the aim of staying in Australia, Chen Yonglin fabricated stories which are unfounded and purely fictitious," a statement issued by the Sydney consulate said. The Chinese Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday the claims were "total slander." The Chinese ambassador in Canberra, Madame Fu Ying, said Chen had no reason to fear returning to China. At this point, if he were sent back, his chances of remaining alive are probably zero.


erhaps the most predictable of all the reactions to Chen Yonglin's revelations, come from those "expatriate CCP patriots" at risk of being "outed" by them. Patriot China (Canberra), which glorifies the mass murderer Mao Tse Tung on its masthead, and which represents the "Australian Chinese Students Patriotic Association", had this clever analysis:
Look at this ugly face!!A traitor,a lame-ass dickheadness,if it were up to me,I'd kill this punk.
Yes, very much in the Mao Tse Tung style, I must say. Scroll up and take another look at who he's calling ugly! Warning: clicking that link and reading the comments therein, should be done only by those not easily sickened by stupidity.

Alternatively, consider the man who such people admire. Jung Chang, known for her book Wild Swans, has now published what might be the definitive biography of the "Great Helmsman", co-authored with Jon Halliday. Here's a review of Mao: The Unknown Story, from the Observer. The mass murder detailed therein, the great purges, and "great leaps forward" resulting in famine that killed tens of millions may all seem such a long way away from modern China. But as the authors clearly note:
Mao's portrait and his corpse still dominate Tiananmen Square in the heart of the Chinese capital. The communist regime declares itself to be Mao's heir and perpetuates the myth of Mao.
There remain those in this world still inspired by this violent "red emperor," such as the Nepalese Maoists, who believe they are doing some sort of class struggle for the benefit of humanity.

One day, the sooner the better, this dwindling personality cult will finally expire, but probably not before the collapse of the CCP itself. Then the Chinese people will be able to face their own history with honesty and openness, and will have no need for the Party to ever again go to such ridiculous lengths in its attempt to control the truth.


was astounded last week with the antics of Amnesty International, a group which I've always respected and hope to do so again. I actually had the opportunity to watch the press conference on C-SPAN, in which Irene Khan presented the AI report on Camp Delta, Baghram Airbase, and the whole "archipelago" of American gulags. The funniest part was when she finished, and all the assembled journalists burst into applause!

The idea of comparing those places where the US military is holding actual terrorists, and terrorism suspects -- most of whom have been taken straight off the battlefields in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere (including Thailand probably, where Hambali was picked up just a short drive from where I'm sitting) -- with the Soviet gulag system of hundreds of forced labour camps which held tens of millions, and where millions probably perished, is so completely out of proportion that it does little more than damage their own credibility. This, in my opinion, is a real shame for Amnesty International itself. It's a bit like some folks comparing anyone they want to vilify, such as Chimpy McShrub or Darth Cheney, to Hitler. Conservatives are Nazis, Palestinians are having a holocaust, and so on. The very concepts of the horrors of Nazism, Fascism, extermination chambers or the massive Soviet gulag system simply become meaningless. Perhaps this writer has it right after all: In The Future, Everyone Will Be Hitler For 15 Minutes.

It didn't take long, however, for some backtracking. William Schultz, head of AI's American branch, admitted that he doesn't really know for sure whether the "archipelago" of camps (allusion to Solzhenitzyn's Gulag Archipelago, check) actually qualifies as a gulag or not. As for AI's charge that Rumsfeld or Attorney General Gonzalez are the "architects" of "systematic torture", he admitted that he had no actual information on that either.
"It would be fascinating to find out. I have no idea," Schulz told "Fox News Sunday."
Glad we got that straightened out then. Would it be too much to ask for a retraction, perhaps, a la Newsweak? Just for perspective though, let's not forget that there does actually exist, in this day and age, a vast "archipelago" of forced labour re-education camps... and, what a surprise! They're run by communists too, just like the original gulags. Maoists, even! And North Korea has 'em too...

I am sorry to hear that AI has actually gone to bat for specific known terrorists in the recent past though. Check out the saga of Ahmed Hikmat Shakir [might require registration, but it's minimal and worthwhile for Opinion Journal features].

UPDATE: I had been waiting to read something from Anne Applebaum on this gulag business, and just after posting this, I see she has now written a piece. Ms. Applebaum is the author of what is probably the most comprehensive work on Stalin's gulag prison system, GULAG: A History -- for which she won a Pulitzer Prize in 2004. In a column in yesterday's Washington Post, she reflects on Amnesty's noble history, its apparent abandonment of previously well maintained neutrality, the morphing of its current leaders' perspectives into common, run-of-the-mill anti-Americanism, and why it should know better. I've seen Anne interviewed on C-SPAN's Washington Journal a few months ago about her book, and she's no lightweight by any means (nor a Bush administration cheerleader, as you'll see at that column). For her to castigate AI for its overblown use of very serious descriptors like "gulag", or its drawing equivalence between the Bush government and that of Stalin, should certainly result in some very shamed faces on some of Amnesty's international leadership.


uring the recent spat between China and Japan regarding the latter's insufficient grovelling and begging of forgiveness over the conduct of the Imperial government during World War II, I raised the question of China's own revisionist history regarding her own conduct up to and including the present day, particularly as it relates to the still occupied country of Tibet.

A commentary appeared in The Daily Telegraph a few weeks ago which took the idea a little further, when writer Michael Trend published a faux leaked document of the PRC's State Council. Although obviously an exercise in sarcasm, the facts pointed out within it have all been well documented and researched over the 55 years of the Chinese occupation. I reproduce it below -- it was included in my April 26 edition of the World Tibet Network newsletter (a daily compilation of Tibet-related news stories, a service of the Canada-Tibet Committee), so I don't have the original Telegraph link for it.

Three weeks later, there was a response from the Chinese Embassy in London, which I reproduce following. This was included in my May 22 edition of WTN News. The WTN archives may be viewed here. I love the headlines chosen by the Telegraph editors.
And now, an apology from China.

By Michael Trend

Daily Telegraph

(Filed: 24/04/2005)

This document was discovered last week on a photocopier of the State Council
in Beijing and passed to me by a concerned official.

Dear Tibet,

The People's Republic of China has, as you will have noticed, recently been
insisting that Japan should repent for historical wrongs. Anxious not to be
accused of hypocrisy and double standards, we have decided to set a good
example by writing to you now to repent of our wrongdoing in your country.

It is a matter of much regret to us that we invaded your country in 1950. In
particular, we offer a full apology for the way in which we put down the
popular uprising of 1959, during which we recorded, in one of our own army
documents, 87,000 deaths through military action (although this figure did
not include, as has since been pointed out to us, those Tibetans who died at
that time as a result of suicide, torture and starvation).

We also ask forgiveness for the hundreds of thousands of other Tibetans who
have died since that time as a result of our deliberate policies. That we
forcibly sterilised so many Tibetan women and subjected so many others to
mandatory abortion is now a matter of deep shame for us. We unreservedly
apologise to those women who have been raped, especially those, including
nuns, detained in prison.

Indeed we are very sorry that we have held so many people in prison over the
years. We deplore our lamentable failure to recognise the basic human rights
of the Tibetans. We deeply regret our use of false detention and torture.
Consequently, we will immediately release Tenzin Delek Rinpoche and all
other political prisoners from jail and we undertake to return the Panchen
Lama, whom we abducted 10 years ago, to Tibet.

Likewise, our abuse of Tibet's natural resources causes us great unease.
What fools we were so aggressively to deforest such large tracts of your
country. The effects of this for your ecology and economy are highly
disturbing to us. More-over, we now view with profound distress the
destruction of almost all of your religious buildings during the Cultural
Revolution. We confess that one of the main reasons why we have recently
allowed some of these to be rebuilt is our desire to encourage dollar

We wish to withdraw our entirely fallacious argument that Tibet is an
inalienable part of the Motherland. We recognise that the Tibetan people are
a completely separate race from the Han Chinese, with their own history,
language and culture, and have a right to autonomy. We acknowledge the
leadership of the Tibetan people of the Dalai Lama, and offer him our
warmest congratulations on the important reforms he has made in modernising
and democratising Tibet's government in exile.

Above all, we recognise the most important contribution His Holiness has
made to help us move away from our regrettable past. We now much appreciate
the way he has insisted that his people deal with us only in a peaceful
manner rather than follow the usual course of the oppressed with bombs and
bullets. How much better it would be if all governments of the world
actually practised what they preached in this regard and actively negotiated
with the men of peace and stood up to the men of violence - rather than vice

Moreover, we have taken to heart His Holiness's wise and generous advice on
the serious problems we face reassuring the rest of the world that we are a
peaceful, responsible, constructive and forward-looking modern country. We
accept that our hosting of the Olympic Games in 2008 and the International
World's Fair and Exposition in 2010 will not help dispel the concerns,
suspicions and fears that the world feels as we emerge as a regional and
global power. We now fully understand the need urgently to address the lack
of basic civil and political rights and freedoms of our citizens, especially
with regard to minorities.

We recognise that there are many other distinct peoples and religious groups
we have abused in recent years, but our treatment of Tibet is a particular
sorrow to us. We understand that the Dalai Lama has given us an opportunity
to put right the wrongs of the past, an opportunity that might never come

We are, therefore, now committed to withdraw the ridiculous preconditions
for the negotiations we have been holding with his representatives and move
forward. We understand that it is ludicrous for us to insist that the
Tibetans first agree to our desired conclusions of the talks before they
even begin.

We have told many lies about Tibet. These lies have covered the revolting
use of coercive power that we have deployed in your country for more than
half a century. We now want to be open and honest about the past,
recognising that violence and lying are inextricably tied together. We
apologise; we will stop the violence and the lying; we will set the record

Yours etc,

The People's Republic of China
The "People's" Republican government, resolutely and in an all round way, comprehensively defeats this interference in her internal affairs, which will not be brooked:
Tibet is like Scotland

Sunday Telegraph, May 15 2005

Letter to the Editor

Michael Trend's column regarding Tibet (Comment, April 24) faked a letter from the State Council
of the People's Republic of China. It may want to show off the writer's shallow smartness by
linking the Sino-Japanese dispute with the Chinese unarguable sovereignty on Tibet, which is
totally irrelevant. But, by stating "the Tibetan people are a completely separate race from the
Han Chinese", the article demonstrates the writer's ignorance on the basic knowledge about Chinese
civilizations and history.

It is nothing more than to claim "the Scottish are completely alien from the British people".
Moreover, the article in its entirety contains nothing but misleading information and groundless
accusations against the Chinese government.

Hereby, we express our deep regret and discontent with the Sunday Telegraph for carrying such an
article that misled its readers with fraudulent information. We sincerely hope that your newspaper
could do something that will promote the mutual understanding and friendship between the British
and Chinese peoples.

Press Office

Embassy of the People's Republic of China

London W1
Just a couple of quick comments. If the embassy's press officer is equating the Tibetan people with the Scottish people, and Tibet's position within Great China to Scotland's position within Great Britain, perhaps he (or she) ought to check back again with head office.

Scotland has her own parliament and a considerable amount of autonomy within its borders. In fact, the autonomy enjoyed by Scotland (or Wales) would be the envy of every Tibetan. The rights to govern their own cultural, social, educational and environmental affairs, to meet in their own parliament and debate issues in their own language, to pass laws and regulations therein which will apply in their own country, to fly their own flag without fear of arrest and torture..... all these things would be greatly welcomed by the Tibetan nation. The autonomy accorded to the territory of Nunavut by Canada, would also be a dream come true for Tibetans who wish to preserve their own unique civilisation. In fact, this sort of autonomous arrangement is exactly what His Holiness the Dalai Lama has been promoting for years now, and all he gets back is shrill denunciations and no substance.

The press officer's entire argument seems to consist of, "You made up this satirical letter, and so everything it contains is wrong. And besides that, it's groundless. And also fraudulent. And wrong, wrong, wrong. Period."

A nice example of denying established historical fact, by just simply stating that it's.... wrong.


fter posting this, I plan to add a few more treats to the sidebar. Above the Bangkok weather sticker, we have a javascript clock giving my current local time (GMT +7), which would seem a good thing for those friends who are wondering just what time of the day or night goes along with the displayed conditions here. And below that is a little image of the current weather satellite shot, which is updated every hour (usually it seems, just before the top of the hour). Like the earlier addition of the Seismic Monitor, it's reduced to fit in the bar, but the image is small (only about 25 kbytes). Click on the image to bring up the already loaded picture into a pop-up window, it's about 440 px wide by 300 px. The Weather Channel link below will take you to the full sized animated series (a sequence covering the past few hours) at their site, which is pretty nice.

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