Beijing, China: People of China are seeking for political asylum overseas. The number has been increasing after Xi Jinping became the president of China.
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) figures reveal that nearly 12,000 Chinese nationals sought asylum overseas in 2012 however, this number had risen to nearly 120,000 by 2021 since Xi took office as the Chinese Communist Part (CCP) General Secretary.
Safeguard Defenders have termed this a “desperate act”. The rights group warned of a growing risk of transnational repression, including the use of involuntary returns, now that a growing number of Chinese nationals have fled the country.
The rights group said, “Seeking asylum is for many a desperate act, reserved for those with few other options, which does not apply to the great many Chinese who have moved, and continue to do so, to the U.S, Australia, and beyond, often via naturalization, work visas or property purchases.”
As per the report, around 730,000 Chinese nationals have sought asylum since 2012, with more than 170,000 living outside China under refugee status.
In an article by Amelia Loi for Radio Free Asia (RFA), the overseas-based rights group Safeguard Defenders said, “Year by year since Xi Jinping came to power, in lockstep with a more oppressive system of governance, the number of asylum-seekers from China has continued to grow at an alarming rate.”
“In 2020, and now with new figures just released for 2021, it shows continued growth despite COVID restrictions,” it added. The US remains the most popular destination, accepting 88,722 applicants from mainland China last year. Australia took 15,774 asylum-seekers in the same year, the figures showed. Thousands also apply for asylum in Canada, Brazil, South Korea, and the U.K.
Safeguard Defenders researcher Jing-jie Chen said the data also reflect the impact of Xi’s zero-COVID policy, that has led to grueling lockdowns and draconian restrictions of people’s movements under the guise of disease control and prevention. “China has basically been in a state of lockdown during the past couple of years that these data are from, and it is actually very difficult for asylum seekers to go abroad,” Chen said while speaking with RFA.
“Yet we can see that the number has reached a new high … with the number of asylum seekers rising every year over the past three years,” he added.
Chen said many more people are voting with their feet and opting to emigrate from China, either through overseas study or investment visas and residency cards.
Meanwhile, World Uyghur Congress spokesman Dilxat Raxit said many of the asylum-seekers are Uyghurs fleeing a network of concentration camps and technological totalitarianism in the northwestern region of Xinjiang. He said overseas Uyghurs remain at risk from the Chinese authorities.
“Uyghurs in exile are constantly at risk from China putting pressure on their countries of residence to detain and forcibly return them,” Dilxat Raxit said.
“We call on the international community to continue to take measures to provide Uyghurs at risk with adequate protection,” he said, adding that many Uyghur asylum-seekers had been unable to renew expired passports and sometimes had trouble documenting the oppression they suffered back home,” he added.