Can I Apply for Asylum If I Am From China?

A review of the many types of claims for asylum that are granted to nationals of China.

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There is a long history of Chinese nationals coming to the United States and seeking asylum. NBCNews reports that in 2010, for example, 6,683 asylum seekers came from China (see Life on NBCNEWS.com, “U.S. system for refugee, asylum seekers explained”), though other sources put that number at 12,850 (see The Asylumnist, “UNHCR: Number of Asylum Applications Up Sharply in 2011”). In 2011 there were 20% more asylum seekers from China than the year before.

The bases for Chinese asylum claims are varied, and include people claiming persecution on account of religion, political opinion, coercive family planning, and even female genital mutilation.

The largest pool of Chinese asylum seekers claims persecution or fear of future persecution on account of China’s coercive family planning policy. Since U.S. immigration law specifically defines refugee to includes people claiming persecution on account of coercive family planning policy, many such people receive asylum in the United States. (See Immigration and Nationality Act at Section 101(a)(42).)

Do Many People Gain Asylum From China?

From 2009 to 2013, Chinese nationals won asylum at higher rates than asylum seekers from any other country. According to statistics compiled by the U.S. Department of Justice, almost 46% of people seeking asylum from China won their cases in 2013. The New York Asylum Office continues to hear more Chinese asylum cases than cases from anywhere else in the world.

What Type of Asylum Claims Are Typical From China?

The most common claim from China revolves in some way around the country's coercive family planning policy. Some Chinese people claim to have been forced to abort a fetus; others claim to have been forcefully sterilized. Some claim to fear abortions or sterilizations either because they had too many children in China or because they believe that their U.S.-born children will put them in danger if they were to return.

Some Chinese say they were persecuted or fear persecution because of their religion. This includes people who attend “underground” churches not registered with the government as well as Uighur Muslim and Tibetan Buddhists. Falun Gong practitioners are also considered to be practicing an “unauthorized” religion.

Political persecution also occurs in China, particularly around Internet use and freedom of speech.

What Are Common Reasons for Denial of Asylum Claims from China?

The most common reason why the U.S. government denies claims from China is because the immigration judge or asylum officer does not believe a material part of the claim. It is important that the applicant’s testimony be detailed, consistent, and plausible so that the judge or officer can make a positive credibility finding. It is also important to support your claim with objective evidence such as legal documents and country condition reports.

Religious claims are sometimes denied because the judge or officer did not understand why the Chinese national could not participate in a state-sanctioned church.

What Can Chinese Asylum Seekers Do to Increase Their Chances of Success?

Chinese nationals who file a case based on the one-child policy should explain how the policy works in their specific area and why they cannot move to a different part of China where the policy is applied differently. (For an explanation of why this is important, see, "Can I get asylum if I could live safely somewhere else in my country?".)

Applicants who were forced to undergo a tubal ligation should bring evidence that they have been sterilized, such as a hysterosalpingogram. Proof that you have had the tubal ligation, however, is not enough to define you as a refugee. You must also convince the judge or officer that you were forced to have the procedure. This requires testimony that is detailed, consistent, and plausible.

If your claim is about religion, it is important that you explain why you attend your church and why you do not want to attend a government run church.

Falun Gong practitioners should be prepared to explain the tenants of Falun Dafa and to explain why you could not practice privately.

by: , J.D., LL.M.

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