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Recent Chinese Asylum Cases

by David L. Cleveland

Section 208 of the Immigration and Nationality Act states that the Attorney General may grant "asylum" to an alien, under certain circumstances. This article will present summaries of some recent Chinese cases.

Christians who were members of "house" churches, who were hit on the head, imprisoned, and were threatened. See Huang v. Gonzales, 403 F.3d 945 (7th Cir. 2005).

Political opinion
Pro-democracy activists, who stood on the street in Beijing, shouted slogans, who were then physically injured and imprisoned. Li Wu Lin v. INS, 238 F.3d 239 (3rd Cir. 2001).

Persons who protested in the United States, such as at the United Nations, at Chinese consulates, and who wrote articles for Chinese newspapers printed in the United States.

Mr. Zheng, with the help of "snakeheads," attempted to enter the United States, but he was arrested. He told U.S. government officials the names of the snakeheads. One snakehead then threatened to kill him. Zheng’s application for asylum was denied; however, he was granted relief under the Convention Against Torture. Zheng v. Ashcroft, 332 F.3d 1186 (9th Cir. 2003).

Mr. Lian paid snakeheads to smuggle him into the United States. Upon arrival at Chicago’s O’Hare airport, he no longer had his passport, because the snakeheads took it. He was arrested by the U.S. government. He stated that if he were returned to China, he would be imprisoned and tortured for the crime of leaving China without permission. The court ruled that perhaps he was entitled to relief. Lin v. Ashcroft, 385 F.3d 748 (7th Cir. 2004).

People from north-west China, who are Muslim, and who want self-determination

Falun Gong
Practitioners of this group, who did outdoor physical exercises.

Ms. Iao stated that she practiced Falun Gong in the United States, and that she demonstrated in the street in front of the Chinese consulate in Chicago, against the persecution of Falun Gong. The court ruled that perhaps she has a well-founded fear of future persecution, if she were returned to China. Zhen Li Iao v. Gonzales, 400 F.3d 530 (7th Cir. 2005).

Coercive family planning
Families who had more than one child.

Women who suffered forced abortion and forced sterilization.

Husbands of women who suffered forced abortion and forced sterilization. The husbands came to the United States and were granted asylum.

Ms. Lin had two children, and stated she feared she would be sterilized in the future, if she returned to China. The court ruled that perhaps she deserved asylum. Lin v. Ashcroft, 385 F.3d 748 (7th Cir. 2004).

Ms. Xu Ming Li, from the Fujian Province, suffered a forced pregnancy exam. She was held down for 30 minutes, and her private parts were probed. The court ruled that perhaps she deserved asylum. Li v. Ashcroft, 356 F.3d 1153 (9th Cir. 2004).

Mr. Zhen Hua Li and his wife had four children. They were ordered to pay a fine equivalent to twenty months’ salary; both of them lost their jobs, along with health insurance, food rations, and school payments; and had their furniture, refrigerator, and television confiscated. The court ruled that perhaps Mr. Li deserved asylum, because he had suffered severe "economic" harm. Li v. Attorney General, 400 F.3d 157 (3rd Cir. 2005).

The one-year deadline
You must apply for asylum within one year of arrival in the United States.

In the case Qu v. Gonzales, 399 F.3d 1195 (9th Cir. 2005), the wife was involuntarily sterilized through a tubal ligation procedure in 1985. The husband entered the United States in 1997, but did not apply for asylum until 2001. Husband was denied asylum, but he was granted "withholding of removal," which means he can live legally in the United States.

Cases that were not successful
The applicant did not present letters from family members which corroborated what happened.

The applicant did not present letters from hospitals or doctors. The applicant did not know very much about the organization of which he claimed to be a member.

The applicant’s statement in court was inconsistent with what he had written earlier. The applicant was deemed to be a liar because his story was very similar to the stories of others.

Sources of Information
In June 2004, the Department of State wrote a 79-page Profile of Asylum Claims and Country Conditions, available at

This Article is available in Mandarin
Ms. Grace Lin has translated this article into Mandarin. See

About The Author

David L. Cleveland, a staff attorney at Catholic Charities of Washington DC, is the Chair of the AILA Asylum Committee.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.