A Home Office spokeswoman said last night: 'We can confirm we have received an application for political asylum from a Chinese national and it is being considered.'
Hong Kong government officials refuse to discuss Mr Gao's fate. Mr Patten, who became governor in July, is already dealing with the Chinese over the sensitive issue of Hong Kong's proposed new airport. Experts believe Peking is using every opportunity to exert greater control over the running of Hong Kong before it is officially returned in 1997 and the Foreign Office was anxious to avoid the defection being used to undermine the new governor as he settled into his new role.
In 1989, a diplomatic row broke out when Yang Yang, a dissident Chinese swimmer, defected to the United States via Hong Kong. China suspended co-operation with Hong Kong over the repatriation of illegal immigrants from the Crown colony.
Mr Gao, who was deputy leader of the Serious Crime section in China's showcase Shenzen special economic zone close to Hong Kong, wanted to go to the United States, but the US authorities, anxious to avoid upsetting Peking, declined to accept him.
He was moved to Britain after giving a controversial interview to an American news agency. He made allegations of corruption among senior officials in Shenzen.
There were serious riots in Shenzen this week when people eager to invest on its stock exchange went on the rampage, attacking policemen, overturning cars and setting some on fire. At least one person was reported to have died during disturbances.
People claimed corrupt senior officials kept back investment tickets from general release so they could benefit themselves. The Chinese authorities responded by closing the fledgling exchange and sending in squads of baton-wielding police.
Mr Gao, 42, defected to Hong Kong in March after his career and marriage were wrecked, following his arrest in 1990 over accusations that he helped leaders of the pro-democracy movement escape to Hong Kong in the crackdown after Tiananmen Square.
He was held in custody without being charged for six months before being released. He was moved from a comfortable house to a dormitory and lost his job.
Mr Gao claims he was framed by another senior officer who was having an affair with his wife. He was arrested by the officer alleged to be having the affair.Reuse content