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Tying Refugee Asylum to Geopolitics
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Tying Refugee Asylum to Geopolitics

Tying Refugee Asylum to Geopolitics

Tying Refugee Asylum to Geopolitics
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Two asylum-seekers recently met different fates: A North Korean refugee was welcomed by President Bush, while a Chinese man seeking asylum in Australia was denied. NPR Senior News Analyst Daniel Schorr says the lack of an outcry over the Chinese man is due to the United States' dependence on China's cooperation on diplomatic and economic issues.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

A one-time Chinese dissident turned diplomat turned defector is not having an easy time winning the political asylum he's seeking. Chen Yonglin is in Australia, where he has asked to stay. The government has said that it won't send him home for now, but it hasn't made any long-term guarantees. And it turns out Chen also got the cold shoulder from Washington. News analyst Daniel Schorr says that seems inconsistent with other Bush administration actions.

DANIEL SCHORR:

In his inaugural address in January, President Bush told dissidents around the world, `When you stand for your liberty, we will stand with you.' And so it seemed in character when the president received, on Monday, a North Korean defector, Kang Chol-hwan, who said with elation that the people in the concentration camps will applaud.

But then there is the case of Chen Yonglin, a Chinese diplomat who walked out of the Chinese Consulate in Sydney on May 26th and applied for asylum in Australia with his wife and daughter. That would ordinarily be considered an intelligence coup, but not in this case. Australia has refused asylum, and now, Chen told The New York Times, the American Embassy has advised that there is nothing it can do for him.

It's not hard to figure out why. The United States relies on China to help keep contact with North Korea with the hope of restarting negotiations about North Korea's nuclear weapons. And the United States needs China's help on trade and currency issues.

Both Chen and the woman who became his wife were student activists at the time of the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989. They were sent separately to re-education camps, according to The Times. Earlier, during Mao Tse-tung's Cultural Revolution, Chen's father was beaten for two weeks before he died. Under the circumstances, it is surprising that he was accepted in diplomatic service.

Now that the story's beginning to get around, it's hard to imagine that the Bush administration will allow his family to be deported back to China. This is Daniel Schorr.

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