Australia grants protection visas for dissident academics

PUBLISHED : Monday, 01 August, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 01 August, 2005, 12:00am

Australia has granted protection visas to dissident Yuan Hongbing and his assistant, Zhao Jing, the South China Morning Post has learned.

Ms Zhao was granted her visa in June and Professor Yuan, who has published books exposing China's persecution of Tibetans and Mongolians, received his visa less than two weeks ago.

'I'm happy that my visa has been granted. It shows that Australia is a country that respects democracy and freedom,' said the 53-year-old professor, who taught at Peking University and later joined Guizhou Normal University before seeking asylum in Australia in July last year when he and Ms Zhao were visiting Sydney as tourists.

Ms Zhao said she was glad her wait was over.

'I have been waiting for freedom for a long time,' she said, adding that she was sorry to her family for the interrogation they suffered after she fled.

Australia has also allowed defector Chen Yonglin to stay despite protests from Beijing. Mr Chen, formerly consul for political affairs at the Chinese consulate in Sydney, caused uproar in May when he defected and claimed there were more than 1,000 Chinese spies in Australia.

Professor Yuan said his visa should have no relation to that of Mr Chen. But Ms Zhao suggested the furore generated by Mr Chen's case might have put pressure on the Australian government.

While waiting for their visas, Professor Yuan and Ms Zhao depended on friends and royalties from his book. They said they would now support themselves.

They plan to visit other countries, spread their 'democratic messages' about China, and publicise persecution on the mainland through books and the internet. They will launch a Chinese website within two months to promote the 'renaissance' of Chinese culture.

Professor Yuan said he planned to put online works of artistic value that were unpublished in China for political reasons.

'Under the Communist Party's rule for the past 56 years, China has become a soulless country, in which profits and materialism are the religion,' he said, adding that they would find ways to get around the official internet blockade so mainlanders would be able to access the website.

Professor Yuan said he hoped he could contribute to the democratic movement of exiled Chinese dissidents and work with other activists to put an end to one-party rule on the mainland.

'With so many social, political and economic contradictions multiplying in China, I am confident one-party rule will come to an end in less than five years,' he said.

'By that time, I'll return to China as a free man and will help develop a democratic country which is built on the respect of the constitution.'

According to Professor Yuan, another asylum seeker, Hao Fengjun , has also been granted a protection visa by Canberra, but that could not be confirmed independently.

Mr Hao was a policeman in Tianjin responsible for the crackdown on the banned Falun Gong movement.

Granted refuge

Yuan Hongbing , 53

In March 1994, the Peking University law professor is taken into custody by Beijing security police and accused of taking part in 'counter-revolutionary' activities. He is held in Guizhou for six months without charge. After his release, he is forbidden to return to Beijing and begins to teach at Guizhou Normal University, eventually becoming head of the university's law school; writes four books in secret on persecution in Tibet and Inner Mongolia . In July 2004, he joins a tour to Australia and leaves the tour group in Sydney to seek asylum. Protection visa granted on July 22 this year.

Zhao Jing , 31

She meets Yuan Hongbing at Guizhou Normal University while working there as a tutor of international trade. In July 2004, she seeks asylum with Yuan in Australia, but the application is rejected within a week. She appeals to the Refugee Review Tribunal and is granted a protection visa on June 21.

Chen Yonglin , 37

On May 16, the diplomat abandons his post and seeks asylum. His application is rejected and he applies for a protection visa. He claims there are more than 1,000 Chinese spies in Australia and says he wants to defect because he can no longer support repression in China. Mr Chen, his wife and daughter are granted permanent protection visas on July 8.