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Hu Na (Chinese: 胡娜; pinyin: Hú Nà; born April 16, 1963[1]) is a former professional tennis player best known for defecting from the People's Republic of China to the United States in 1982, thereby sparking a Cold War-era diplomatic incident. Diplomatic relations between the two countries had been established in 1979, and the Hu Na incident was among the first major tests of those newly established relations.

Hu Na
Native name胡娜
Country (sports) United States
ResidenceTaipei City, Taiwan
Born (1963-04-16) April 16, 1963 (age 56)[1]
Chengdu, Sichuan, China
Prize moneyUS$ 208,560[1]
Career record75-97[1]
Career titles0[1]
Highest rankingNo. 48 (February 29, 1988)[1]
Grand Slam Singles results
Australian Open2R (1987)
French Open2R (1990)
Wimbledon3R (1985)
US Open2R (1985, 1986)
Career record45-67[1]
Career titles1[1]
Highest rankingNo. 49 (June 25, 1990)[1]

Early lifeEdit

Hu Na was a young and rising tennis star from China's Sichuan province. She had a talent for sports from a very early age, and spent several hours practicing every day. Noting her talent, her father was able to enroll her in a special athletic school. She took a special interest in tennis, going on to win first at the Sichuan provincial-level competition, then the national-level young tennis tournament, making her China's top-ranked tennis player. At this point, she was invited to join the China national women's tennis team, based in Beijing.

Diplomatic incidentEdit

Beginning of incidentEdit

In July 1982, while touring California for 1982 Federation Cup with the China Federation Cup team, on her second day in America, Hu Na fled her hotel room and sought refuge in the home of friends. In April 1983, she requested political asylum, stating that she had a "well-founded" fear of persecution because of repeatedly refusing to join the Communist Party of China.

Immediate reactions of Chinese and American governmentsEdit

The US government allowed her to remain in America while it considered her request. It delayed nearly eight months in making a decision. On the one hand, Hu Na had considerable sympathy from President Reagan's administration and from the American public, but on the other hand, American diplomats knew that to grant Hu Na asylum would almost certainly damage relations with China and possibly drive it closer to the Soviet Union.

The Chinese government suggested that the 19-year-old star was too young to have made such a decision independently, and pointed out that her lawyer was being paid for by donations from Taiwan. It promised not to punish her if she returned home, and implied that separating Hu from her family by keeping her in the United States would be cruel.[3]

Granting of asylumEdit

The US Department of State finally issued a memo supporting her asylum claim to the Department of Justice, which had the ultimate responsibility to make a decision. On April 5, 1983, the United States formally granted Hu Na political asylum.

The Chinese government was infuriated, saying that this constituted blatant American intervention in its domestic affairs. They then announced they would sever all cultural and artistic ties between the two countries. A Voice of America radio broadcasting delegation visit to China, scheduled to take place just a few days later, was cancelled. American diplomats in Beijing found themselves cut off from invitations and contacts with the Chinese government.

Long-term effectsEdit

Hu Na's defection was a clear win for American foreign policy.[4] While the asylum incident's aftershocks were at first severe, the incident did not impact long-term Sino-American relations. Although Hu Na herself was likely of little concern to the Chinese, the incident was an embarrassment for the Chinese government and brought to light other bilateral points of contention. One contemporary article[5] stated that the Chinese, through diplomatic channels, suggested that they would not have complained as much if Hu Na had been granted some type of immigration status other than "political asylum".

Later lifeEdit

After receiving asylum, Hu Na played professional tennis for the United States. Her best Grand Slam result was a third-round finish at the 1985 Wimbledon. She retired from professional play in 1991, however, after sustaining injuries.[2]

Hu Na resettled in Taiwan, where she worked as a tennis commentator for ESPN and established the Hu Na Bitan Tennis Club in Taipei[2] which later trained the Taiwanese tennis star Hsieh Su-wei. She has returned to mainland China many times to promote the sport and visit her family. [6]

In 2011, Hu Na had a dream which she interpreted as a sign to start painting. Ever since then she has established herself as a professional painter. She has produced over 400 paintings in 6 years. In November 2012, she showcased her artwork in her first oil painting world tour. In 2017, Hu Na held the "Hu Na Lotus Sutra Oil Painting Collection World Tour". [7][8]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Hu Na (USA)". Women's Tennis Association.
  2. ^ a b c Chang, David. "Former Chinese tennis star, defector, to return to China". Bangkok Post. Retrieved 2008-08-15.
  3. ^ Harding, Harry (1992). A Fragile Relationship: The United States and China Since 1972. Brookings Institution Press. p. 128.
  4. ^ Copper, John F. (1983-08-23). "The Lessons of Playing Tough with China". Heritage Foundation. Retrieved 2008-08-15.
  5. ^ Isaacson, Walter (1983-04-18). "Furious Volley in No Win Match". Time. Retrieved 2008-08-15.
  6. ^ Dan Levin (19 July 2013). "Taiwan's Tennis Ace Flirts With China. How Could She? Cash". New York Times. Retrieved 20 July 2013.
  7. ^ "Tennis star became artist with a new art exhibit (Chinese: 網球名將變宅女!胡娜油畫展今開展!-民視新聞.)". 8 October 2017.
  8. ^ Xiao Wen Lu (21 July 2017). "Former Tennis star becomes Buddhism Sutra Painting Artist Overnight.(Chinese: 前網球名將胡娜 一夜成佛經繪畫藝術家)". Retrieved 21 July 2017.

External linksEdit