Chinese asylum-seekers in the EU: Immigration offices in the dock

| March 19, 2019

Members of a Chinese Church are denied asylum across the EU as national immigration offices remain unaware of their story and the magnitude of the persecution – writesLea Perekrests, deputy director of Human Rights Without Frontiers

Recently, news regarding the complete absence of freedom of religion or belief in China has been seeping out of China. Christians, Uyghur Muslims, Buddhists, and Falun Gong are all heavily persecuted because of their religious beliefs; for them, it is either leave the country, or risk arrest, torture and possibly death. Members of the Church of Almighty God (a new religious movement with Protestant ties), is one such group which has been faced with this choice.

When Church of Almighty God (CAG) members were able to escape China and arrived into European countries to seek asylum, they were met with immigration officers who had never even heard of their Church or, worse, had been misled by the Chinese Communist Party’s anti-religious propaganda.

Lacking solid and reliable knowledge about the Church, these immigration officers turned away these asylum applicants. When deported back to China, they are subject to arrests and imprisonment.

Now, international NGOs and the Church itself are attempting to fill this information gap in European asylum offices.

Earlier this month, The Church of Almighty God published its annual report documenting individual cases of brutal persecution by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). The Church membership is estimated at four million by the CCP.

According to their report, over 23,000 of their members were persecuted by the authorities in 2018 for either holding religious meetings in private homes or for trying to share their faith with others.

Across thirty provinces, autonomous regions, and municipalities, more than 12,000 CAG members have suffered harassment, including having their personal data collected, being forced to sign statements renouncing their faith, being forcefully photographed or video recorded, and having their fingerprints, blood samples, and hair collected.

In 2018, more than 6,700 CAG members were held in detention either for short or long periods; 10% are known to have been tortured and almost four-hundred were sentenced to lengthy prison terms. Most of them will spend three years behind bars, but in eight cases, the prison sentence is more than ten years.

Brussels-based NGO, Human Rights Without Frontiers has been documenting the arrests and sentencing of CAG members in China over the past year. At the beginning of 2019, its database of prisoners, which is only partial, included 1,663 CAG prisoners; 1,291 of which are women and 372 men. A user-friendly version of the global religious prisoners database will be launched in April 2019.

Human Rights Without Frontiers also contributed to the United Nations Universal Periodic Review of China with a report documenting numerous fatal cases of torture.

The US Department of State also confirmed in its 2018 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices that “members of the Church of Almighty God…reported systematic torture in custody” in China.

Despite this growing accumulation of evidence, Belgium, France, Germany and The Netherlands have rejected the highest numbers of CAG applications for asylum out of all EU member states in the past few years.

Offices of immigration in the EU urgently need to complete and update their library of information regarding The Church of Almighty God. By considering resources from civil society, as well as academic resources, including those from the Center for Studies of New Religions (CESNUR), immigration officers would be better enabled to take informed and humane decisions concerning Chinese believers who are in search of a safe haven in our democratic countries.

 

 

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Category: A Frontpage, China, Human Rights