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Asylum-seeking Chinese released four years after ship ran aground

February 27, 1997

YORK, Pa. (AP) _ Beverly Purcell-Church spent all week folding underwear and sorting pants for a group of Chinese detainees whose long fight for freedom won over many in this industrial town.

``I ironed about 42 shirts on Saturday,″ she said. ``I had to do something with my crazy energy.″

Nearly four years after the Golden Venture freighter ran aground off New York City, 39 of its passengers were released from incarceration Wednesday while they appeal for permanent residence in the United States.

Wearing identical sweatshirts and pants, the men emerged from York County jail with their belongings in pillowcases and boarded a bus for a nearby church. Once there, they found racks of clothing and baskets of provisions, all donated by people who live in the area.

Some were in tears, others smiled. All looked exhausted.

``We must say `Thank you’ to Mr. President Clinton. We also say `Thank you’ to the congressman and Golden Venture people,″ one of the men said.

President Clinton recently ordered the release of the 53 passengers who were detained by Immigration and Naturalization Service after the Golden Venture arrived in June 1993.

There were 286 aboard, traveling in the cargo hold for three months, when their ship ran aground off New York City. Ten died trying to swim to shore. Of the others, some remained legally, others returned to China or headed to other countries.

Fifty-three were detained; 39 in Pennsylvania and 14 in California.

In York, town residents rallied around the immigrants, helping them raise money for legal fees and sell the intricate paper art they made out of magazines and toilet paper.

At the church, many residents were there to take the men into their homes while they await word from the INS.

It was not known how many of the 14 detainees on the West Coast were to be released.

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