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UK attacked for refusing asylum to dissidents

AMNESTY International and the Labour Party yesterday condemned the Government's refusal to stop the deportation from Hong Kong to Peking of two Chinese supporters of the pro-democracy demonstrations in Tiananmen Square in June 1989.

Liu Yi-Jun, 29, and Lin Lin, 25, are certain to be sent from their jail cells in the British colony back to China this month. The Hong Kong authorities have rejected their claim for asylum and the Home Office has rebuffed an attempt by Amnesty to get the UK to accept them as refugees.

Yesterday the Home Office took the unusual step of refusing to give its reasons for turning down the women's application.

Richard Dunstan, a refugee officer for Amnesty International, said that the women had cast-iron asylum cases. Ms Liu Yi-Jun had published articles during the democracy protests which were critical of the Communist government. Lin Lin had supported her and provided her with lodgings.

'They run the great risk of being deported from detention in Hong Kong to face imprisonment and torture in China,' Mr Dunstan said. 'The Home Office could have saved them, but it has chosen to follow a heartless and immoral policy of doing nothing.'

Amnesty said that the Hong Kong system of dealing with dissidents was inadequate. There were no rights of appeal and asylum seekers were not told why their claims were rejected. A Hong Kong judge will look at the women's cases on Thursday.

Tony Blair, Labour's home affairs spokesman, criticised the Home Office's refusal to explain its decision and demanded to know how many Chinese dissidents had been deported from Hong Kong. 'I'm hearing reports that as many as 200 have been sent back to face imprisonment.'

Last night, there was confusion about the women's legal status. The Home Office said that Amnesty had not asked for the women to be given asylum in Britain. 'We looked at the papers as a courtesy to Amnesty and decided the Hong Kong authorities had behaved properly,' a spokesman said.

But letters from Amnesty to the Home Office Asylum Division show that the human rights group had made an application for asylum. Mr Dunstan added that Britain had intervened in the past.

Earlier this year, the UK had moved quickly to whisk a senior defector from the Chinese police out of the colony after he had embarrassed the Peking authorities by giving press conferences on police corruption in China.