A former security officer has become the second Chinese official to seek asylum in Australia, deepening the dilemma for the Australian Government and creating a fresh embarrassment for Beijing.
The man says he fled his job because he saw evidence that colleagues were torturing members of banned religious sect Falun Gong.
And he has backed claims by former diplomat Chen Yonglin that China operates a spy network in Australia – claims angrily denounced today by the Chinese Government.
Mr Chen remains in hiding with his wife and six-year-old daughter after fleeing his job at the Chinese consulate-general in Sydney.
Greens senator Bob Brown has written to the NSW Police Minister Carl and Commissioner seeking police protection for Mr Chen.
Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said today that Mr Chen had failed to put in a formal bid for political asylum when he first defected, but said in any case, Australia rarely granted such applications.
Hao Feng Jun, 32, said he started out as a policeman before being transferred to the security service known as 6-10, which he said was specifically set up to wipe out Falun Gong.
“I had to go to the place where they’d detained a Falun Gong follower,” he told ABC’s Lateline.
“When we got there she had two huge black bruises on her back and two cuts on her back about 20 centimetres long.
“One policeman was using a half-metre length of metal bar to beat her. When I saw this I knew I couldn’t do this work,” he said.
Mr Hao Feng Jun, 32, who says he worked as a security officer in Tianjin in China’s north, backed Mr Chen’s claims that China has a large spy network operating overseas, numbering about 1000 in Australia.
“They spend out businessmen and students out to overseas countries as spies,” he said. “I worked in the police office in the security bureau and I believe that what Mr Chen says is true.”
Mr Hao said he has seen evidence spies infiltrate groups like Falun Gong overseas, including Australia, and collect information on their members to be sent back to China.
His bureau in Tianjin received money from the Chinese Government, which was used to pay for spies to gather information about Falun Gong and other dissident groups, as well as military and business groups, he said.
Mr Hao applied for political asylum in February while in Australia as a tourist and said he was currently on a bridging visa.
“If I go back to China, there’s no doubt the communist Government will certainly persecute me. They know I have confidential information – some of it top secret – and I’ll be severely punished,” he said.
Mr Hao said such persecution was common, saying he was locked up for more than 20 days for claiming the Chinese media was fabricating stories against Falun Gong.
Brainwashing and torture were methods of “re-educating” people in forced labour camps, he said.
“First you will be sent to a brainwashing centre, and if they are not reformed they are sent to forced labour camps,” he told the independent online newspaper, The Epoch Times.
“There are no human rights whatsoever in these forced labour camps.
“It’s pretty common in forced labour camps to use torture methods . . . Almost every forced labour camp uses torture methods.”
Meanwhile, the Chinese Government has attacked the claims of its former trusted first secretary, saying Mr Chen had no evidence for his allegations.
“The rumours spread by Chen Yonglin are total slander,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said in Beijing.
“These rumours are detrimental to China-Australia relations.”
Liu did not provide any more details about Chen’s case but said it would be handled “according to Chinese law.”
Chinese diplomats say Mr Chen fabricated the allegations because he does not want to return home.
His claims have cast a shadow over Canberra’s attempts to negotiate a free trade deal with China.
China and Australia have been developing their trade relationship in recent years as Australian miners pour billions of dollars worth of raw materials and fuel into the surging Chinese economy.
The free-trade deal, both sides say, would be worth billions more.