At one time there would have been little question of the United States giving political asylum to Hu Na, the defecting Chinese tennis ace whose status remained in doubt for months. Then an applicant's being from a communist country was sufficient to obtain protection. More recently applicants from all countries have faced the same requirement: to establish likelihood of persecution if they return home. Miss Hu could offer evidence that she was being pressured by Chinese authorities to join the Communist Party.

But for her celebrity status, her case would have simply become a statistic among the 27 Chinese applications for asylum accepted and 187 rejected under the present law. It would not have called for Peking's outcry and hints of retaliation.

Yet the US had to risk diplomatic friction to remain true to its reputation as a haven of freedom. By taking her own risks for freedom, Hu Na helps remind the world that China's communist shortcomings cannot be overlooked in the midst of achieving correct and mutually beneficial international relation-ships.

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