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U.S. Court Calls for Deportation of Chinese Christian

3 min read

In my mind, this is outrageous! Christianity Today is reporting that the US is going to deport a chineese christian back to China.

For more than five years, Xiaodong Li and about half a dozen friends gathered weekly in their hometown of Ningbo, China, to study the Bible and sing hymns. Then one Sunday morning in April 1995, in the middle of one of the services inside Li's apartment, three cops stormed in, handcuffed Li, and escorted him to the local police station.

The officers grabbed his hair and kicked his legs, forcing him to kneel. They hit and shocked him with an electronic black baton until he confessed two hours later to organizing an underground church. Later, they locked him inside a windowless, humid cell with six other inmates until his friend and uncle bailed him out five days later. After his release, police forced him to clean public toilets 40 hours a week without pay. He lost his job as a hotel spokesman.

Li, 22 at the time, likely faced two years in prison. A court hearing was set for later that year. Li began plotting an escape. He applied for a visa. Unaware of Li's looming trial, a government agency issued him a passport. And on November 4, 1995, Li left the country.

Two months later, a Carnival Cruise Lines ship docked in Miami. Li, a food server on board, walked off and never returned. He moved to Houston, hoping to go back to his homeland when China's government eased religious restrictions. Instead, conditions worsened. His friend was imprisoned for participating in their underground church. And police interrogated Li's family, who still live in China, after receiving Bibles, religious magazines, and newspapers that Li had sent them.

In 1999, Li applied for asylum on the grounds that the Chinese government had persecuted him for his religious beliefs. He missed the application deadline, but an immigration judge agreed with his arguments, granting him a status that allowed him to remain in the United States until conditions in China improved.

But in 2003, the Board of Immigration Appeals reversed the judge's decision. It ruled that Li was punished for violating laws on unregistered churches that it said China has a legitimate right to enforce. Li, the board concluded, feared legal action or prosecution, not persecution.

In August, a three-judge panel of the federal Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the board's ruling. The decision has alarmed refugee and religious-freedom advocates. They say the ruling, unless overturned, will make it much more difficult for future asylum-seekers to prove religious persecution.

The appeals court decision "sends a chilling message that the United States is beginning to turn its back on people fleeing religious persecution," said Dori Dinsmore, the former advocacy director for World Relief, an international organization that assists refugees.

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