OTTAWA — More than six Chinese diplomatic personnel are defecting to Canada, but the Canadian government remained tight-lipped today about details for fear of reprisals against relatives here and in China.
"I can confirm that there have been approaches by some officials of the Chinese Embassy indicating a desire to stay in Canada," External Affairs Minister Joe Clark told reporters outside the House of Commons.
But Clark said he could not give any details of the defections, other than to say normal procedures were being followed.
'In Nobody's Interest'
"I think you will understand that it is in nobody's interest to get into those details at this moment," Clark said.
External Affairs officials said Chinese citizens from the diplomatic corps have approached immigration officials requesting refugee status, which would allow them to live and work permanently in Canada.
Canada's Conservative government says it will deal sympathetically with any Chinese seeking refugee status because of the continuing repression in China.
The spokesman said the government could not comment on the number or the names of the defectors because of concern about reprisals.
2 Reported in Hiding
Canadian media reports, quoting sources, said more than six Chinese diplomats and staff are believed to have defected from the embassy in Ottawa and from the consulate in Vancouver.
The Ottawa Citizen reported that a Chinese trade officer and a woman are believed to be in hiding with friends in the Canadian-Chinese community in Ottawa.
One senior government source said External Affairs must tread carefully with the defectors in case more diplomats and staff want to follow suit and remain in Canada.