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Thousands Celebrate Independence Day as Citizens

July 5, 1996

EL PASO, Texas (AP) _ In China, Hao-Zhong Dai’s wife, Bao-hua, was required to walk in front of him and open the door. But Betty, as Bao-hua now calls herself, won’t be doing that as an American citizen.

``Harry’s going to have to learn to open the door himself,″ Bao-hua says, referring to her husband by his new American name.

In other naturalization ceremonies Thursday, 713 immigrants in Detroit, 569 in Seattle and more than 60 in Lincoln, Neb., were welcomed as citizens.

The Seattle ceremony involved immigrants from 64 countries, including Van Phan from Vietnam, who had no trouble explaining why she wanted to become a U.S. citizen.

``I like United States because they have freedom,″ said Phan, a 36-year-old refugee. ``I don’t like the Communists. I want to come here. I like the freedom. My country is not free.″

Bao-hua and Hao-Zhong were among more than 4,000 people sworn in Wednesday at a naturalization ceremony at the University of Texas at El Paso. About 12,000 people attended that ceremony; 53 nationalities were represented.

Hao-Zhong, 57, a former English professor at the University of Shanghai, says he knows why he’s celebrating the Fourth of July: his nine months in solitary confinement during China’s Cultural Revolution of the 1960s.

``I was placed in a room, by myself,″ he said. ``I had to publicly confess all my so-called sins to the Communist Party before they would let me go.″

Hao-Zhong continued teaching in China after the 1976 death of Mao Zedong, and came to the United States about 10 years ago as an exchange professor. He taught at Rice University until a year ago, when he and his wife moved to western Texas and opened a Chinese restaurant.

Bao-hua is a businesswoman in her own right: She has 10 years of banking experience _ six at the Bank of China in Shanghai and four as a bank teller in Houston.

The couple said they look forward to voting, something they never could do in China.

Another group of 4,000 new citizens will be administered the oath next month. Between May 20 and July 26, the Immigration and Naturalization Service will have processed 14,000 applications, said Isabel Mullins, director of the port of entry in Ysleta, a section of El Paso.

``We don’t want to keep people waiting,″ she said.

Rosa Chavez, a native of Chihuahua, Mexico, who was naturalized Wednesday, wept as the national anthem was sung. ``This is a very emotional moment,″ she said.

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