Tuesday, October 31, 2006

A former high-ranking Chinese technology specialist has defected and is seeking political asylum in the United States in order to promote democratic change in China.

Jia Jia, until recently the head of the government-backed China Shanxi Science and Technology Experts Association in Shanxi, north-central China, said in a telephone interview from Hong Kong that he defected Oct. 23 during a visit to Taiwan because he opposes Chinese Communist Party rule.

“China right now is not free,” Mr. Jia said. “I left China because I want to make use of the democratic environment outside the country.”

Once China has taken steps to match its economic reform with democratic political reform, Mr. Jia said he will return to China.

Mr. Jia was refused political asylum in Taiwan because, he said, Taiwanese officials feared allowing him to stay would upset China.

The U.S. Consulate in Hong Kong, where he is staying temporarily, also has rejected Mr. Jia’s appeal for political asylum, telling him that he did not meet the qualifications.

The former technology official said he has been granted permission to stay seven days in Hong Kong under rules governing tourist visits, while he seeks permission to move to another country. Because Hong Kong is part of China, he could be arrested after that period.

Mr. Jia said that if he is forcibly repatriated, he faces torture and possible death because he has spoken out against the ruling Communist Party and in support of democracy.

Mr. Jia advocates the creation of a non-communist federal government in China to replace the ruling-party system.

The increase in protests and civil unrest in China is the result of opposition to communist rule, he said.

“I hope President Bush will help me go [to the United States] and that U.S. citizens will help me to realize a democratic China,” Mr. Jia said.

“If President Bush can do that, the Chinese people will thank America for generations,” he said.

Mr. Bush vowed to support pro-democracy advocates in his 2005 inaugural speech. He said democratic reformers facing repression, prison or exile around the world should known that “America sees you for who you are: the future leaders of your free country.”

However, pro-China officials in the White House and elsewhere in the Bush administration have blocked major U.S. government efforts to help Chinese dissidents since doing so would upset relations between Washington and Beijing.

Mr. Jia said he believes “millions” of Chinese Communist Party members want democratic reform, as do millions of others among China’s 1.3 billion population.

As many as 14 million of China’s 78 million Communist Party members have left the party in recent years, a factor that prompted his defection, Mr. Jia said.

Last year, China’s ruling party issued a white paper stating that China will never adopt Western-style democracy.

Mr. Jia said he is not a member of the banned Chinese spiritual group Falun Gong, which advocates the ouster of the Communist Party in China, but he said he has been supported by the group in his efforts to seek asylum.

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