More on Chen Yonglin

An Australian editorial bemoans that country’s callous treatment of the Chinese spy who came in from the cold, and says the government’s willingnewss to turn its back on a pontentially invaluabl;e resource borders on the bizarre.

CHEN Yonglin, the Chinese diplomat who has been trying fruitlessly for a month to defect to Australia, gave a press conference last week that was bizarrely under-reported.

Chen provided more detail about his sensational claim that Chinese government agents have been involved in kidnapping in Australia and these, whether they have any substance or not, surely deserve thorough investigation. He also claimed that when Australian officials interviewed him about the information he had to offer they did not even take down names.

Chen’s experience with officialdom is so bizarre it would make a good Monty Python movie were it not so serious. That he has still not been granted a permanent visa is humiliating and disgraceful. But of even more interest was Chen’s description of Chinese strategic policy towards Australia. The Chinese Government, he said, “wants to use economic means to compel Australia to give ground on issues like security and human rights”.

…Chen’s fascinating interpretation of Chinese policy, and its success in muting Australia on human rights and moving us away from the US on some key security issues, is shared by high-class analysts in the US and Australia.

Canberra has many sources of information about China and it believes that the Chinese military judges Australia to be permanently wedded to the US, but the Chinese foreign ministry believes Australia can be partly prised away, again a view consistent with Chen’s interpretation.

We have had a tiny window opened into the activities of China’s vast intelligence service by Chen’s statements, even if they are exaggerated.

Canberra’s shabby treatment of Chen validates the account he gave this week.

The article is rich in criticism of Australia for its hypocritical attitude toward China, bending over backwards to please the rising juggernaut.

I can’t say I’m a student of Australia’s relations with China. But if this topic interests you in any way, this is a commentary you have to see. Very outspoken, bordering on the angry. Does it reflect a popular feeling in Australia that Canberra is handling the Chen affair disastrously?

Update: I presume you’ve all by now seen this rather extraordinary post about Chen, which certainly raises all kinds of questions. Good post, good comments, but it only leaves me more uncertain of what’s actually going on.

The Discussion: 25 Comments

Ummm … maybe it’s just because I’ve lived in Australia for the last few years … but I find nothing in this story shocking. In fact, I find myself saying “yeah, but so what?” … it all seems blindingly obvious.

The business about the officials not even taking down names. Well, I wouldn’t read anything about government policy in that one. It’s a plain fact that the bulk of the staff at DIMIA (Australian immigration) probably have difficulty writing. The number of stories I’ve heard about staff giving blatantly incorrect advice, losing files, and generally cocking things up and making life difficult for all concerned … well, I used to be staggered and outraged by it, but I’ve heard so many of them, that I’ve just come to expect it. One girl I know recently described to me an experience on the phone with them … she spent over half an hour talking to a woman who proved to be utterly incapable of understanding the questions that were being put to her. My friend would ask question A, but get an answer to question B. Then she’d say that, “no, I’m actually wanting to know about A, not B” and the person replied “that’s what I’m trying to tell you,” and then repeated the exact same answer she gave the first time. After half an hour of this, my friend asked to speak to someone else higher up the food chain. He was … how did she describe it? “Marginally more helpful, but not really.”

I also wouldn’t necessarily say that Australia hasn’t granted him a protection visa yet as a sign of a policy decision. Frankly, I would be amazed if DIMIA managed to process ANY application this quickly, even such a high profile one.

As for China’s policy towards Australia? Well, China does this all the time to all countries. Why should Australia be any different?

June 25, 2005 @ 9:06 pm | Comment

There’s such a sinister and subtle aspect about this issue which, as an Australian, I find remarkably unsettling. Is Australia, for the sake of trade relations, complacent about China’s human rights record? Are they prepared to ignore blatant facts in order to maintain the status quo? If this fiasco is anything to go by, then the answer is yes.

Although I am Australian, I can’t claim to be an expert in Australian and China affairs, in particular of this calibre. But being a native knowing a few intimate details about my own country, I know that mining company stocks soared since the year 2000. They’ve tripled in value, which is amazing growth, even by Chinese standards. Guess who’s one of the best customers? Australia supplies a good part of Asia – Japan and China – with good quality steel and the last thing Australia would want to do is cut off this guanxi deal. I would hate it if Australia’s inactivity on this issue is solely to maintain good guanxi.

Just another point I should make: back in 2003 Jiang Zemin visited Australia, and, if memory serves correct, the Dali Lama visited in the same year. The Prime Minister refused to officially welcome the Dali Lama on account that they’d met in 1996. Howard was criticized for this decision – it was regarded as pure kowtowing (or arse kissing, take your pick) to the rising juggernaut, as a means to risk minimizing offending Beijing and securing more guanxi, all in the name of mutual trade interests.

As it’s been stated before, Chen Yonglin’s defection – attempted defection in the process I should say – is embarrassing for both sides. But that aside, the issue of human rights remains in the open and unresolved. As all China watchers would know, the Chinese are quick to defend their appalling human rights record with an arguement along the lines “it’s an internal matter and it’s none of your affair.” Well, in this instance, the Chinese are abusing human rights on Australian turf, and this would make it an Australian issue – and because of this, Australia, officially, should get involved.

June 25, 2005 @ 10:10 pm | Comment

As an Aussie, the last thing I want is for pro-dem Chinese seeking asylum in our country. Their conservative culture will only stop us from moving forward. We have enough of them and don’t need any more. I vote we take the money. Do you think the Chinese would think any differently?

June 25, 2005 @ 11:18 pm | Comment

Interesting points all round so far. It’s good to hear the views of Australians.

I think Oz has almost rivalled France in the way that it has conveniently chosen to forgo it’s supposed high moral principles and ‘not see’ the ugly/realistic face of totalitarian China.

The way Oz cosys up to Beijing with recent policy statements (e.g. Oz wouldn’t help America defend Taiwan etc) and cuddle up to China’s leaders is shameless.

Remember when Hu addressed the Oz parliament and the various demonstraors outside were all kept away as per the ‘requests’ (read ‘orders’) of the Chinese?

Sure, choosing not to interfere in another country’s “internal matters” in order to make a few extra bucks is certainly one way of doing things and the Australian govt can make this choice, I’ve no problem with that. It’s makes me both sad and angry but Oz isn’t the only country doing this. I suppose we could say the same about each and every country doing business in China.

The Clinton-era or positive engagement (be nice to China and China will move in the direction we want it to go) with China had the Chinese wetting themselves with laughter at how stupid the west could be. Therefore, Oz can’t claim to be following Clinton’s failed engagement policy.

At the end of the day, I can’t really criticise Oz for their current China policy. I’m 100% sure that despite Oz’s incompetance in these matters, Chen and family will be safe and everything will be business as usual soon, if it isn’t already.

June 25, 2005 @ 11:21 pm | Comment

Boycott all Vegemite products!Stop Vegemite now!No more warm and fuzzy slippers either.I am seriously considering hating all Australians now.It’s too bad because that Paul Hogan guy is/was? a real hoot and a half.

June 26, 2005 @ 1:34 am | Comment

No surprising whatsoever considering:

1. The Australian government is probably so scared of a protential flood of asylum applications from the Chinese already in there.

2. China is too big to piss off.

3. The spy thing is too hot to handle in public and more political dirt is the last thing the government wants.

Forget about the lip service morality. This is all realpolitik.

June 26, 2005 @ 2:00 am | Comment

If Ozzies want to be the champion of the human right, the CCp would be very glad to ship all the dissidents and wheelers thither. It would be a totally win-win situation! The Ozzies could enjoy their human right while the CCp get their peace. It would also also a huge boost for democracy and rights in China. I can imagine that a majority of the population would overnight become polical opposition, right activists, and wheeling converts just for that small piece of paper called visa.

June 26, 2005 @ 2:59 am | Comment

Leo, YOU should ask Mr.Hu personally. I for one think it’s a GREAT idea!

June 26, 2005 @ 3:21 am | Comment

There’s two very simple reasons for the way Chen Yonglin has been treated by the Australian government. The Economy and Racism. Maybe non-Australians are not aware of this, but a cornerstone of this government’s policy is taking a hard line on asylum seekers. Anyone who seeks asylum in Australia is thrown into one of several hellish concentation camps in the arid desert, regardless of the merits of their case. Even families with children are put in these hellholes. These wrteched people are invariably Asian. Rather than being shocked by such babarity, most [white] Australians are enthusiastic supporters of this “get tough on queue jumpers” approach – even the Labor Party supports it. Australians still see themselves as a white Anglo-Saxon country threatened by the “yellow hordes” from the north. Just look at the way they reacted to the recent conviction of a pretty white female Auusie on drug smuggling charges in Bali. There are several Asian Australians on death row in places like Vietnam but they don’t count because they aren’t “real” Aussies, are they?

So when a Chinese diplomat tries to defect, the general attitude is that he is “probably just another [Asian] queue jumper”. The Chinese Ambassador played on this sentiment very shrewdly, praising the Australian way of life and suggesting that Chen was only interested in gaining residence to have a better life for himself. The Australian economy is booming because of exports to China, and the govt wants a smooth relationship with Beijing. They don’t care about a single minor diplomat, or the human rights of the Falon Dafer adherents.

So as an Australian resident Kiwi, I find nothing baffling about the way Chen has been treated. On the contrary I would have been very surprised if he was granted asylum. It would fly in the face of the last three years of refugee bashing.

June 26, 2005 @ 3:36 am | Comment

Sorry Richard, but I want to take issue with your opening assertion that this piece is an ‘editorial’. In fact, as soon as I started reading the personal pronoun I knew it was an opinion piece. Minor point perhaps, but there is a significant difference between a Frank Rich piece and a piece published in the name of the NYT. Not an Aussie I don’t know who this author is or if he has any particular axe to grind.

June 26, 2005 @ 3:37 am | Comment

Asians jump queues? Thats kinda rude innit?

June 26, 2005 @ 3:43 am | Comment

AM, I don’t think it necessary to ask mr. hu. Yearly thousand of chinese fled to australia. Ask ozzies what happened to these people.

June 26, 2005 @ 4:19 am | Comment

Leo, I am actually more interested in what would happen to YOU! Can’t blame a boy for tryin’.”I oh” Wo is me! Whiner! Real men don’t whine.They do something!

June 26, 2005 @ 4:25 am | Comment

Ay Man, is it necessary to thrash eveywhere with your phallus? It hurts you.

June 26, 2005 @ 5:13 am | Comment

Was that a glimmer of a “thought”?It is quite a member tho.

June 26, 2005 @ 5:19 am | Comment

A couple of points. Really good to see a hole bunch of new people commenting in this thread. Nice it’s not just the same old group of “old faithfuls”.

Secondly, with regards to (what I regarded as) a rather odd comment above, about Australia not wanting their conservative values. It’s actually rather interesting that Chinese tend to vote for the Liberal Party. It’s the “conservative” party, and the one Mike (above) gets all hot and bothered about for its supposed racism. One personal anecdote to demonstrate this point: a Chinese guy who has been in Australia about 12 years. He said when he first got here, he voted Labor, but now he votes Liberal, and couldn’t imagine voting anything else, since he regards Labor as a pack of losers who’d rather spend money than earn it. I would say that this story is not atypical … And just as across the ditch in NZ, Mike … which party had the first ethnic Chinese MP? It wouldn’t have been the National Party would it Mike? (The trans-Tasman equivalent of the Australian Liberal Party, for those who don’t know much about that insignificant part of the world.) Australia also has recently expanded its immigration quotas by a significant amount … hardly the policy of a xenophobic government. Contrary to common belief (Mike is a typical example of this), it is actually easier for non-anglo peoples to immigrate to Australia, than it is for people from England, Canada, USA, etc. This is because under the points scheme, if you are a fluent speaker of any one of a long list of languages, you get a bonus point in your application. So, if you’re a typical Brit, you’re one point down already, because chances are you aren’t fluent in anything but English. But do not despair … if you know a trade, you don’t have any criminal convictions, you’re under 35, and can speak English pretty well … then you’re in. The Australians have just put brick laying, cabinet making, and carpentry into the top catagory for immigration, along with various other skills. So, as you can see, it’s actually pretty damn easy to immigrate to Australia … about the only country I can think of where it is easier is NZ, and that’s because they have to make it easier than Australia, otherwise no one would bother going there.

As for the supposed “high moral ground” that some kiwis such as Mike like to attempt to take. Well, all I can say is that Helen Clark talks a good game. But in reality, it’s a myth. The NZ Labor party likes to pretend it’s standing up for human rights etc., but they carefully made sure that Hu Jintao was whisked in a side entrance to the NZ parliament, just to avoid Hu having to see a protestor. As for the Tampa … NZ cancelled a scheduled intake of refugees to allow them to look good on the international stage, without taking a single extra refugee. Mike, what’s the saying about casting the first stone? Or removing a speck from your neighbour’s eye? Perhaps you’d like to go and read some of the recent media stories about the treatment of asians in Christchurch? Or would that interfere with your sense of superiority?

Last point: Mike doesn’t have any understanding of Australian immigration laws, otherwise he wouldn’t keep going on about mandatory detention in connection to this case. There are certain situations where mandatory detention is enforced it’s true, but there was never any possibility that Chen and his family would be detained. It’s there in black and white in the laws of Australia, if you care to go and do a bit of research rather than mouthing off, smug in your own ignorance. I would highly recommend that anyone reading this thread ignore Mike’s diatribe against Australia. It is factually incorrect, and reflects more about Mike than it does about Australian society. Mike, I’m both a kiwi AND an Australian, and I choose to live in Sydney. I notice you also choose to live in Australia. It’s also the case that many asians who first immigrated to NZ find that they’d rather live in Australia, and cross the ditch to live here. Pretty strange behaviour, wouldn’t you say? After all, Australia is so racist and xenophobic …

June 26, 2005 @ 5:49 am | Comment

Filthy, but you’re an old faithful! Why are you excepting yourself?

June 26, 2005 @ 5:56 am | Comment

Haha … that’s why I like fresh blood. ๐Ÿ™‚
Though, also hope these people stick around and become new “old faithfuls”.

Hey Richard, how about it? “Old Faithful” awards (little flashing icons?) for everyone who has posted 100 comments or more? ๐Ÿ™‚

June 26, 2005 @ 6:33 am | Comment

You all need to read this.

June 26, 2005 @ 6:38 am | Comment

I just read the link that Simon gives. It is interesting, and worth a read. At the same time, it seems to be a good case of Chinese government attempts to “normalise” the whole affair, and just make Chen look like an immigrant-wannabe. You’ve got to read it for what it doesn’t say, as well as for what it does.

June 26, 2005 @ 7:12 am | Comment

Going back to my original point … the reason why there is nothing surprising about the way Chen has been treated is that most Aussies don’t give a f*** about some Asian guy who wants to defect. I was there when he “came out” in Martin Place on 4th June and he was even heckled by some passing Aussie bloke who screamed that we should be more interested in Aussies in Asian prisons rather than some Asian who wants to defect here.

Note that the linked editorial from the Australian says his press conference was “surprisingly underreported”. What’s so surprising? Who cares about a Chinese diplomat when Warney’s split up with his wife? Despite having about 10% of Sydney’s population coming from Asia, Aussies just aren’t interested in anything Asian. This multicultural country has a very monocultural media. You never see an Asian face on Neighbours or Home Away.

June 26, 2005 @ 8:14 am | Comment

Mike … doesn’t it get uncomfortable, keeping one eye closed all the time?

June 26, 2005 @ 9:30 am | Comment

Sorry Mike but after that miserable tirade I’ve just got to say…..SO WHAT!?

June 26, 2005 @ 9:39 am | Comment

MBJ:
I was wondering why you think conservative chinese culture would hold austraila back? Do you say this with regard to the economy?

I can’t see what the negative influence is, if you have a second could you expand on your comment.

June 26, 2005 @ 7:51 pm | Comment

Bezz, I suspect that is is because MJB doesn’t like the fact that immigrant Chinese tend to vote for the Liberal Party once they’ve been in Australia long enough to know how the political system works.

June 27, 2005 @ 5:27 am | Comment

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