In an attempt to dispel widespread reports that a ranking Chinese Communist Party official has defected while visiting Los Angeles, the founder of a local Buddhist temple said Sunday that Xu Jiatun "still wishes to go back to his country and will not ever seek political asylum."
Master Hsing Yun--who described himself as Xu's host in Southern California--said Xu is here to "make a broad survey and research on American society," and that his visit might be extensive, perhaps as long as six months.
His announcement came during a crowded press conference at the Hsi Lai Temple in Hacienda Heights. Chinese journalist Lu Keng, who described himself as a good friend of Xu, was also present and later produced photographs of the three men.
Their comments--which came in the wake of official statements by the Chinese government that Xu is simply vacationing--were interpreted by some Chinese journalists to mean that Xu will remain in this country until the political climate in China changes, but that he does not want to stay here forever.
As bureau chief of the Beijing-controlled New China News Agency in Hong Kong, Xu was China's top representative to the British colony from 1983 until last year. He reportedly fell out of favor with the government of Chinese Premier Li Peng after revealing his sympathy toward the pro-democracy movement that was crushed last June in the military crackdown on protesters at Tian An Men Square.
After he arrived in the United States May 1, Xu's future became the subject of speculation in both the American and foreign press.
Last week, a Japanese newspaper quoted the 74-year-old Xu as saying he left China because of continuing pressure from party officials over his opposition to the use of force during the Tian An Men Square demonstration.
However, as evidence that Xu does not want to break ties with China, Hsing said Sunday that Xu met recently with the Chinese ambassador to the United States. Although he said he attended the meeting, Hsing would not say when it took place.
During the press conference, which was conducted mostly in Chinese, both Hsing and Lu spoke through interpreters. They would not reveal Xu's whereabouts, saying Xu does not want to be bothered by reporters.
Hsing said he received a telephone call from Xu at the end of April in which the journalist said he intended to come to the United States. When Xu arrived, Hsing said, "the first word he said was that he came to have a good rest, asking if I could find a nice quiet place for him. I did as asked."
The Buddhist master said that he and Xu have taken several trips together, including a visit to the Grand Canyon.
The photos that Lu brought to the press conference showed the three men at the Pacific Ocean. Lu said the pictures were taken in San Diego a few days ago.