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Posted at 8:40 PM ET, 10/ 5/2010

Li Fengzhi, ex-Chinese spy, granted asylum

By Jeff Stein

Finally, he can let out his breath.

Li Fengzhi, a former Chinese intelligence agent whose long quest to stay in the United States became entangled in spy wars and layers of secrecy, has been granted asylum.

An immigration judge in Denver on Monday granted Li’s request, which began in 2004 when he first applied for asylum on the basis that he would be treated harshly for criticizing China if he were forced to go home. When it later emerged that he had been debriefed by the FBI and CIA, he faced a long prison term, even execution, if he were forced to return.

Complicating Li’s situation was his initial failure to reveal that he had been sent to the United States by the Chinese Ministry of State Security, where he had worked since graduating from college in 1990.

The MSS, as it’s known, had sent Li to the University of Denver to pursue a PhD in international politics and diplomatic philosophy.

Not long after, he quietly began voicing criticism of the Chinese Communist Party. Eventually, it became a roar.

Somewhere along the line he had begun cooperating with the CIA and FBI, but according to some sources, turned down their entreaties to become a double agent.

Later, neither agency stepped forward to help keep Li from being deported, he and others told SpyTalk in early September. Although individual FBI agents were supportive of him, one source said, the bureau officially played down his intelligence value.

"Just getting verification that he worked with them has been an enormous task,” said a source who asked not to be identified due to the sensitivity of the issue.

Neither agency offered comment when invited last month.

Li’s lawyer Mark Robert Barr, of Lichter Associates in Denver, cautioned that Immigration and Customs Enforcement had reserved the right to appeal the decision over the next 30 days.

“Nevertheless, the outcome is highly encouraging, and is hopefully the first step in a process that will ultimately lead to the Li family becoming full-fledged U.S. citizens,” Barr said in an e-mail.

In his own message, Li thanked supporters for their "help, kindness and friendship."

By Jeff Stein  | October 5, 2010; 8:40 PM ET
Categories:  Homeland Security, Intelligence, Lawandcourts  | Tags:  Mark Robert Barr  
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Comments


It seems like every time I turn around these days I read a new story about the lack of integrity at the FBI.

Posted by: Nymous | October 6, 2010 1:14 AM | Report abuse

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