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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (January 12, 2001 - Papua New Guinea Post-Courier/PINA Nius Online)---Papua New Guinea’s Ambassador to China, Barney Rongap, allegedly refused to intervene when immigration officials "wrongly detained" three Chinese businessmen.

The revelations come at a time when Prime Minister Sir Mekere Morauta is scheduled for a historical visit to China in May, his first overseas visit to that country as Prime Minister. Mr. Rongap, who was the acting Foreign Affairs Secretary at the time, has since returned to his post as Papua New Guinea Ambassador to China.

The Chinese Embassy in Port Moresby revealed that Mr. Rongap had insisted that he should consult the head of immigration Parai Tamei, even though Mr. Tamei was overseas and could not possibly do anything.

Chinese Ambassador Zhenyu Zhao expressed concern, noting that the actions of immigration officials and police at Jackson International Airport were illegal and in breach of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations (1961) and the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations (1963).

The three Chinese businessmen were detained upon arrival before Christmas because they allegedly could not speak English and that the zipper of one of their bags was broken.

Mr. Zhao said his embassy was not advised, as would have been diplomatically proper, and was made aware of the situation by Papua New Guinea businessman who had invited the three for business talks.

The three detained were Geng Xiaodong, president of Beijing Xinglong Zhenye Science and Technology Ltd; Man Chunjie, president of Beijing Manfulou Commerce and Trade Ltd; and Dai Hui chairman of Samling (PNG) Ltd.

Senior Foreign Affairs officials and Ministerial staff, including Acting Secretary Leonard Louma, eventually freed the three men together with other "alleged illegal immigrants."

Chinese consular officer Liu Fei, who had contacted Mr. Rongap and also tried to convince Foreign Affairs officials to arrange release of the Chinese, said because they could not speak English PNG officials insulted the three men.

Ms. Fei said the three had proper visas issued by the Papua New Guinea Embassy in China, return airline tickets to China, and money.

But Papua New Guinea authorities insisted that they be locked in police cells.

Mr. Zhao said the embassy should be informed at all times of alleged "illegal immigrants" entering Papua New Guinea.

"The embassy of The People’¹s Republic of China in Papua New Guinea has the right and obligation to protect the legitimate rights and interests of its nationals, both individuals and bodies corporate," he said. "The Chinese Embassy should be accorded maximum facilities for the performance of its duty."

Mr. Zhao said they accepted with satisfaction apologies made by the Department of Foreign Affairs for the wrongful detention of Chinese nationals with valid passports and visas.

He said they also appreciated the department’s official note addressed to the Embassy to the effect that the department will advise the Chinese Embassy of future cases where its nationals were involved.

"The Chinese nationals should be treated with respect by PNG immigration and custom staff at the airport during their entry into and exit from PNG," he said.

"The Chinese government has always firmly opposed any illegal human smuggling and will continue to cooperate with PNG side in this regard. The Chinese Embassy will educate the Chinese nationals to abide by PNG laws and encourage them to live in harmony with local people and continue their efforts in making greater contributions to PNG’s economic and social development," he said.

For additional reports from The Post-Courier, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Post-Courier (Papua New Guinea).

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: 

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