A Chinese bricklayer searching for the man he says is his American father has abruptly left his sponsor in Dover, Del., and come to California, taking by surprise the assorted American friends and officials who arranged his unusual entry into the United States.

Zheng Lianqun, 35, who was freed from a Hong Kong jail cell late last year through the intervention of several U.S. officials, flew from New York to Los Angeles Monday night, using money he had apparently saved from his job in a Chinese restaurant in Dover.

Kee Chang, a former Vietnamese refugee of Chinese descent who sponsored Zheng's entry into the United States, said he was upset at Zheng's unannounced departure and would inform immigration officials immediately. Zheng, however, said he would not return to Delaware. "I have very little time left to find my parents and I am not going to waste it," he said.

Zheng has found a Chinese-American family in the Los Angeles community of Alhambra willing to take him in, and an Immigration and Naturalization Service spokesman in Washington said Zheng probably would not be penalized or immediately deported if he informed the local immigration office within 10 days that he had changed residence and located a new sponsor.

Zheng said he plans to go soon to San Diego to continue his search. His grandmother in China had told him his mother, a Chinese mill worker, had gone to San Diego to join her husband, a U.S. Marine, shortly after his birth in Tianjin in 1947.

The tall, freckled, light-skinned Zheng received publicity across the United States two years ago as he buttonholed nearly every American he could find in Peking, asking for help in his search for his parents. Repeated checks of U.S. military records have failed to turn up his father, whose name may be George Lewis or Louis George, or his mother, Li Shuzhen.

Zheng said his grandmother destroyed letters and photographs from his parents after the Korean war broke out in 1950 so that she could not be charged with treasonous contacts with Americans.

In May of last year, frustrated by his failure to prove he was an American, Zheng illegally crossed the border into Hong Kong, and, after hiding for several weeks, turned himself into Hong Kong authorities at the urging of U.S. officials. Under Hong Kong law, he would have been sent back to China, but he won the support of Rep. Patricia Schroeder (D-Colo.), who interviewed him in Hong Kong's Victoria Prison, and other lawmakers who persuaded immigration officials to grant him a special "humanitarian parole" to continue his search in the United States. The parole is scheduled to end the middle of this year but could be extended.

Chang, Zheng's sponsor in Dover, said he had promised Zheng he would help arrange a trip to California to continue the search and was stunned when Zheng left without telling him. "If he wants to stay out there, he can," Chang said. "It's a free country."

Chang said he was concerned, however, that Zheng's abrupt departure might create a bad impression with U.S. immigration authorities and hurt Chang's efforts to bring his own parents and other relatives from Vietnam to the United States.