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Ninth Circuit finds Falun Gong members eligible for asylum

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] on Tuesday ruled [opinion, PDF] that a Chinese couple are eligible for asylum because they reasonably feared persecution as members of the Falun Gong sect [group website; BBC backgrounder]. Zhao and Duan came to California in 2001, several months after an incident in which Chinese police had entered their home, arrested them and beaten them during a four-day detention. The couple were released after paying a fine and agreeing not to practice Falun Gong. The Ninth Circuit panel relied on Falun Gong asylum cases it had decided in 2004 and 2006 [opinions, PDF]. Judge Stephen Reinhardt wrote:

Much like in the two previous cases, the Chinese authorities have already identified Zhao and Duan as Falun Gong adherents and have shown an interest in monitoring their movements. In fact, unlike [those cases], Zhao and Duan have already been arrested, detained for four days, physically abused, coerced into signing a promise to refrain from their practice, and ordered to report to the police once a week. Zhao was abused to the point that he sought medical attention and was threatened with death or disappearance.
The holding reverses a determination by the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) [official website], which had found that that petitioners Shoufu Zhao and Zhenying Duan had shown neither past persecution nor a well-founded fear of persecution, as required by a federal statute [8 USC 1101(a)(42)(A) text]. The San Francisco Chronicle has more.

China [JURIST news archive], which banned Falun Gong [Guardian report] in 1999, has repeatedly faced criticism for its human rights record [JURIST report]. Last month, Amnesty International [advocacy website] released a report [PDF text] detailing ongoing human rights abuses in the country, including the use of the death penalty, detention and abuse of rights activists, and Internet censorship.

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