SYDNEY, Australia — The Australian government Thursday granted asylum to a Chinese diplomat, but Prime Minister Bob Hawke refused to discuss news reports that the embassy in Beijing is harboring a student leader of the democracy movement.
The Foreign Ministry said that Vice Consul Dong Qi, in hiding in Sydney since Friday, was granted permanent residence on humanitarian grounds.
Australia's Parliament passed a motion condemning China's military crackdown on protesters in Beijing on June 3-4 and the continued arrests of activists, and Hawke said that the 15,405 Chinese citizens in Australia, including 10,600 students, need not worry about being deported because of expired visas.
"The government of Australia will be keeping their situation under close and sympathetic review," he said. "We would consider sympathetically the cases of any student who could be considered in any sense in danger by returning to China."
However, Hawke refused to discuss newspaper reports that the Australian Embassy in Beijing has granted refuge to student leader Chai Ling.
Chai, a 22-year-old psychology student at Beijing Normal University, is on the Beijing government's list of most-wanted leaders of the pro-democracy movement.
Hawke said it serves no purpose to "speculate or talk about it."
A Foreign Ministry official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said reports that Chai is hiding at the embassy are "way off the mark."
In Japan, Kyodo News Service quoted unidentified Japanese security officials as saying that 27-year-old Ma Qiuyun, an attache at the Chinese Embassy's consular office, has asked for U.S. asylum and remained in Tokyo.
Seven Chinese studying in Denmark and two people registered as businessmen applied for political asylum in that country in the last week, said Inge Thomsen, an immigration official. Thomsen declined to discuss the cases but said authorities will be "cautious" about forcing Chinese to return home under present circumstances.