Two Chinese student leaders who attend Utah schools helped persuade a Chinese diplomat Friday to defect to the West. At an extraordinary press conference sponsored by a student group, the diplomat said that most of his colleagues at the Chinese Embassy in Washington quietly support the pro-democracy movement.
The diplomat, Xu Lin, 32, worked in the education section of the embassy and had been assigned to work with Chinese student organizations. Over the past year, the Utah students befriended the diplomat and helped him reach the decision to defect.They were identified as Zhang Wei, a Chinese student leader at the University of Utah, and Peng Yuenlan, another leader at Utah State University. He met them after being dispatched by the Chinese Embassy on an official trip to Utah.
At his press conference, Xu Lin said, "Not only the average citizens in China, but also workers of the government at all levels have lost their faith in the regime." The conference was organized by the Independent Federation of Chinese Students and Scholars, which seeks to represent more than 40,000 Chinese students at American universities.
Xu's defection illustrated the serious problems China has had over the past year in maintaining the loyalty of its diplomats. The defection is the most public and the most embarrassing so far in what has become a gradual exodus of Chinese officials from diplomatic posts across the United States.
Xu disclosed that over the past year 14 Chinese diplomats have defected from China's embassy and five consulates in the United States. The figure - higher than previously known - consists of five defectors in Washington (including Xu), four in San Francisco, four in Chicago and one in New York City.
Xu is a graduate of Qinghua University, an elite scientific training school that qualifies as China's version of California Institute of Technology or the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He came to the United States in June 1988, one year before China's violent crackdown on the democracy movement in Beijing.
Last summer, after the crackdown, Xu said his superiors within the embassy told him he should help "tighten up" the ideological instruction given to Chinese students in the United States. For example, Xu said, embassy officials told him to instruct Chinese students not to attend a meeting in Chicago at which Chinese students and dissidents were beginning to form a pro-democracy organization.