Applying for Asylum in Japan
(Clearwisdom.net) When I think of a refugee, a poor skinny child comes to mind. This image is rather pessimistic and negative. I never thought that one day I would become one myself.
In July 2004, I went to Japan to pursue a job opportunity. Though reluctant at first, I decided to apply for asylum. My first thought was very simple: "I do not want to go back to China to be subjected to the persecution." After discussing with fellow practitioners, however, my understanding improved. Applying for asylum is also a way to save sentient beings. Once in Japan, I published an article with my real name on the Minghui/Clearwisdom website about the persecution I had suffered in China. Although I did this, I did not think seriously about how to clarify the truth to the Japanese people.
Fellow practitioners shared with me that most practitioners who applied for asylum status in Japan before did not mention their experiences of the persecution in China. The documents they prepared usually only provided general information about the persecution. My understanding from this is that the Japanese government probably did not understand how severe the persecution in China is. Though they gave the practitioners who applied for asylum a legal residence status, they did not acknowledge the practitioners' need for asylum.
If there were more practitioners who came from China providing clear evidence of the persecution, wouldn't it help the asylum application procedure for practitioners? If the Japanese government truly understood the facts of the persecution and granted asylum status to practitioners, it would be the same as publicly admitting that the persecution is real. It is a way for the Japanese government to condemn the persecution, and support and rescue practitioners. By doing this, wouldn't it pave the way for a bright future for Japan? I believe this is so. Besides, applying for asylum is a good way to clarify the truth in general. Usually when we go to talk about the persecution to Japanese government officials, they might not make time to listen to us, but when we are following the proper legal procedure of applying for asylum and deliver supporting materials to them, they have to read it because it is their job.
I decided to follow the suggestions of my fellow practitioners. Though the situation of applying for asylum in Japan is not too hopeful for practitioners, and even though I had just left China and did not have enough money to pay for a lawyer, I still decided to apply for asylum for my family and myself (my family members are all practitioners). I submitted the application in September 2004.
In March 2005, when I first met with the asylum investigation officer, I had deepened my understanding of clarifying the truth in the process of applying for asylum. Since I had personally experienced the persecution in China, the officer lengthened the time for our meetings several times. Eventually, it took six meetings over a two-month period before we had finished. He asked very detailed questions about my situation: What is Falun Gong, how I came to practice Falun Dafa, how I benefited from practicing, the facts of the persecution, and about the Falun Gong-related activities I attended here in Japan. There was a translator with me at all the meetings.
The officials all learned about the beauty of Dafa and the brutality of the persecution. I gave them copies of the Nine Commentaries on the Communist Party (translated into Japanese). I also gave them some printed materials from related websites. I reminded them to read the book carefully so that they could understand why the persecution of Falun Gong happened in China. Later, the investigation officer told me that he had read the Nine Commentaries. In our meeting, the officer said in Chinese, "They (practitioners) are good people." I did not find him to have any tendencies of purposefully creating obstacles to my application. Later, I understood that whatever the result of my application was, applying for asylum was the right action because it helped another person to fully understand the truth. Actually, there were more than just two government officials learning the truth; our original documents and those prepared by the officer were delivered to other officials to review as well. More people would thus have a chance to read our stories and learn the truth.
During the time when we were waiting for the conclusion of our application, my daughter enrolled in an elementary school, graduated, and is now in middle school. When we collected signatures to support all the practitioners applying for asylum, people at her two schools learned about our experience of the persecution. At my daughter's middle school, the school's principal addressed it in a meeting. Eventually, almost all of the teachers signed our petition. One teacher even encouraged her family to sign. This action calling for support for the asylum applications was launched by a relative of mine living in Japan. I believe that the kind people who supported practitioners have chosen bright futures for themselves.
In January 2006, we received a notice telling us that a decision on our application had been reached. Our application for asylum was refused. They gave three reasons for denying our application. Their main point was that we were only ordinary practitioners, not coordinators or organizers. Based on that, they claimed that the persecution I suffered in China, and the potential persecution I would face if I return to China after publicly attending Falun Gong activities in Japan, was not sufficient to merit asylum. This response obviously had not correctly taken the facts into account. I saw the need to further clarify the truth to them.
It is true that we are ordinary practitioners, but after the persecution started in July 1999, the neighborhood committee and leaders of my workplace went to our home to harass us. My workplace put me under surveillance for more than three months. I went to Tiananmen Square in Beijing to unfurl a banner in support of Falun Gong and was detained. Later, I was forced to be homeless. The perpetrators found me in Guangzhou City and sentenced me to two years of forced labor (the Minghui/Clearwisdom website reported this incident). These are all facts of the persecution.
Practitioner Jiang Renzheng in Germany was forced to return to China and was arrested after his application for asylum was refused. In Japan, there are some similar examples: some ordinary practitioners who returned to China were detained as soon as they stepped off their flights. How could they claim that "ordinary practitioners" were immune from persecution?
After reading the final decision on my application, they told us that we could appeal in seven days if we did not agree with it. They also added that if we wanted to stay in Japan permanently, we could also bring it up, but it would have nothing to do with the asylum application.
We certainly want to stay in Japan. We came to Japan because our family was indeed under persecution for practicing Falun Gong. Our hope to stay in Japan is also out of concern for the persecution we would have to face if we returned to China. If were are not granted asylum status, how could we stay in Japan? Is it possible that Japan would grant anyone a permanent residence status? In the end, we were given a one-year residence status. This result is the same as that of the first group of practitioners in Japan who were refused asylum.
We discussed with fellow practitioners about our situation and got several different opinions on whether we should appeal the decision or not. The reason that some gave for not appealing is that when the government granted practitioners residence status, it was a way to help practitioners. In fact, the final outcome shows that the Japanese government also knows the truth of the persecution, but due to their fear of upsetting the Chinese Communist party, the Japanese government probably does not want to publicly state their position.
On the other hand, Japan is also not an "immigration country," as its population density is very high. So the immigrant issue is a very sensitive topic. We should understand the Japanese government's difficulties. Besides, this issue had been discussed several times amongst practitioners over the years, and there has been a general consensus on this understanding.
Reasons for Appealing the Japanese Government's Ruling
According to the definition of "asylum," we applied for asylum because the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) controls the whole nation, and they act like a machine persecuting Falun Gong. We do not want to have to be forced to accept "protection" from our own country. Further, we must protest the CCP's persecution of Falun Gong.
What kind of "protection" does the CCP offer to its people? The CCP boasts that the reputation of Chinese people in the international community has increased dramatically under its leadership, but you will get a different picture after finding out the experiences of a Chinese person traveling abroad with a Chinese passport. In this world, except North Korea, there is no other passport that is as difficult to use as the Chinese passport. The Chinese passport receives no visa exemptions in other countries. Even the passports of Hong Kong and Macau receive visa exemptions in more than 130 countries and 60 countries and areas, respectively.
What's more, one is at risk of persecution in China if one is of Chinese decent, regardless of one's nationality. If people go to Tiananmen Square to appeal against certain injustices, people of foreign nationalities and races are released quickly, but Chinese people of foreign nationalities face the same treatment as Chinese citizens, such as detention or forced labor.
In 1951, the United Nations formulated the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. The countries that joined the pledge and/or the protocol have the duty to carry out the related stipulations. The United Nations refugee bureau has a surveillance function. When necessary, it can intervene to guarantee that genuine refugees obtain asylum, and not be sent back to countries where their lives would be in danger. Japan is one of signatory countries of this convention.
For anyone seeking protection under this refugee convention, it is necessary to request the signatory country to provide protection. For the signatory country, it is their duty to recognize these people's status as refugees and to provide protection. Therefore, being a refugee is not a person's shame; instead it is the shame of the country and the government who denies the appropriate status. Applying for refugee status does not mean that one is begging for help.
People living in China are influenced by the evil CCP's culture. Under this pervasive influence they form various notions without realizing it. For example, when I first came to Japan, I always felt uneasy about going to government offices for personal business. When I crossed the road when the traffic light turned green, I always had the inclination to step back if I saw a car approaching the crosswalk. In China, because power means taking advantage of others, the general public is made vulnerable. There is no equality. Government buildings in China are always built in a strong, high style and look dignified on the surface. The people driving luxury cars consider it their privilege to ignore traffic rules. When the government does something that it should do out of its duty, the general citizens, nevertheless, always feel gratitude. If you watch TV in China, the typical pictures you would see are things like disaster victims thanking the government and various government officials for improving on rescue efforts.
When I first came to this democratic country it took me quite some time to adjust my mentality and get used to the normal relationship between the government and its citizens. After meeting with the refugee investigation officer in Japan, I came to feel that we were equals. I felt neither arrogant nor servile, but only stated the facts.
Teacher said in "Teaching the Fa at the Western U.S. Fa Conference",
"On the surface, we're seeking support for Dafa from the world's people. This is the thinking of the worldly human side, manifest in this human place. Yet it's reversed on the other side. Whoever supports Dafa or advocates for Dafa is establishing for himself his being's existence in the future and is laying a foundation for obtaining the Fa in the future."
Since Dafa practitioners are using the legal system for refugee applications, isn't the system ultimately designed for rescuing practitioners? Aren't practitioners the key to helping the Japanese government choose a bright future? Though the number of refugees that Japan recognizes every year is very low, on average about 10 to 20, Dafa practitioners should be among those selected, even if Japan can only recognize one refugee in a year. The persecution of Falun Gong is the most serious violation of human rights. Any rationale for a system of refugee regulations would therefore need to recognize Dafa practitioners.
Therefore, our clarifying the truth is to provide the facts about Falun Gong, the persecution and the evilness of the CCP to people, so as to help people make righteous judgments, take right actions and not have regrets later on. But the choices people make depend solely on themselves. What we can do is try to provide them the facts and reasons so they can make the best choices. The law permits us to appeal. What's more, the reasons why they denied our asylum application were not based on the facts. This is a chance for us to more deeply and broadly clarify the facts, so why not do it? As for how the final result will be, we won't be attached to it, but will just focus on how to put forth our best efforts in the process.
The above represents my understanding at my current level. Please point out anything inappropriate.
February 4, 2006