Asylum seekers in the US come from all over the world. The Department of Justice compiles an annual year book of data and statistics about all types of immigration cases in the US, giving us a good snapshot of how many people apply for asylum annually and where they come from. In 2016, Chinese asylum seekers accounted for the largest number of asylum seekers and asylum grants in the United States.
Let’s take a look at Chinese asylum applications in the US to see what the main reasons are for requesting asylum and some of the unique factors that affect Chinese citizens seeking asylum.
Reasons for Chinese Asylum Claims
Very specific criteria are applied to those who seek US asylum. Based on the existing 5 reasons applicants are allowed to seek asylum, many Chinese applicants have parallel reasons for their requests. Here are the three main reasons that Chinese asylum applicants listed as their reason for needing protection within the US:
- Family Planning Laws
Since 1980, China has put strict population control measures in place. The so-called one child policy led to many women facing persecution in China for having or wanting more than one child. In many cases, this resulted in forced abortions or forced sterilizations to enforce the policy. For this reason, many Chinese women have been able to apply for asylum by showing the persecution they faced by the government or demonstrating a reasonable fear of that persecution if they return to China.
In the US, a 1996 immigration reform bill made “coercive population control programs” such as those in China a valid political opinion for asylum applicants. Those who had been forced into abortions or sterilizations, or those who fear facing such procedures, are allowed to apply for asylum on the grounds of fearing persecution for their political opinions.
In recent years, coercive family planning has been the most common reason stated by Chinese applicants looking for asylum.
- Religious Persecution
Practitioners of certain religions have been able to apply for asylum based on persecution from the Chinese government. Strict laws are in place in China that allow individuals to operate only within specific, state-sponsored religious facilities. Religious persecution is the second most common reason listed by Chinese asylum-seekers on their applications.
Chinese Christians are some of the most common applicants. Applications from Chinese Christians are carefully scrutinized, because Christianity is one of the religions allowed in China. However, some Chinese citizens have successfully shown that they face persecution based on their attendance to underground churches that are not allowed by the state.
Uigher Muslims and Tibetan Buddhists are also examples of people practicing a disallowed sect of an otherwise authorized religion. Those who practice unauthorized religions are also able to apply, with a common example including Falun Gong practitioners.
- Political Persecution
For many Chinese seeking asylum in US, political asylum is an option for those who face persecution based on their political views. Unauthorized use of the internet can be considered political dissidence in China, as well as protesting and going against free speech laws within the country. Persecution based on these reasons and others are generally considered valid when seeking asylum because of political opinions. Chinese political asylum cases, excluding cases of population control, are the third most common claims to asylum.
Chinese citizens may still apply for asylum for any of the legally valid reasons. However, these three reasons are the most commonly seen on asylum applications from Chinese citizens.
Statistics about Chinese Asylum Seekers
- In 2016, Chinese citizens accounted for 36% of all US asylum grants. (Nolo)
- Chinese citizens filed nearly 10 times more defensive asylum applications in 2015 (3,610 in total) than the next highest country of origin, Guatemala. (Migration Policy)
- In 2015, more than 57,000 Chinese citizens were registered as asylum seekers worldwide, while more than 212,000 were classified as refugees. (South China Morning Post)
- Chinese asylum applicants have received favorable rulings about 75% of the time on average since the 1996 immigration law reform. (Reuters)
Abolition of the One-Child Policy in China
In 2015, China fully abolished the one child policy and now allows citizens to have two children. While some experts predict that this will result in a decrease in Chinese asylum cases in the US, it is also worth noting that the two child policy may still result in persecution of individuals who want to have more than two children.
In cases where persecution or fear of persecution is the direct result of the newer two child policy, asylum applications will be handled in the same way as they have been for the previous one child policy. Applicants may still apply for asylum using this basis as long as a coercive population control program that will affect them is in place.
If you’re a Chinese citizen seeking US asylum, an experienced asylum attorney can help you go through the process more easily. Contact Fady Eskandar for a free consultation on your asylum case today.