My Experience Applying for Refugee Status in Austria
Extension of my Passport is Unreasonably Refused by the Chinese Embassy
On February 27, 2006, I submitted my passport to the Chinese Embassy in Austria, to apply for an extension before it expired. A staff member in the embassy accepted my application and told me that I could get my passport back the following week.
On March 6, 2006, the first time I went back to the embassy in Austria for my passport, the reply I got was that as the national emblem on the cover of my passport showed sign of wear and tear, and they would ask their superior for instructions. They asked me to leave my telephone number and told me that they would let me know when they had the result. I began to feel somewhat uneasy because I did not hear from them after waiting for quite a few days.
On March 10, when I again went to the embassy for my passport, the reply was, "According to the related regulation, we cannot extend your passport, because your actions have endangered the safety of China." "Is it because I practice Falun Gong?" I asked. "Yes, that is right," the agent answered. I thought, "How can a group of people who cultivate according to the principle of Truthfulness, Compassion, Tolerance threaten others and their own country?" In the criminal law of China, endangering the safety of the country is a very severe crime. The top penalty is death. How could a diplomatic institution pass such a judgment instead of a judicial organ? I asked them if they had gotten a written adjudication, and they answered, "No."
The embassy staff did not want to discuss the matter further with me. Then I handed in an open letter, which was about a study conducted on 25,284 Falun Gong practitioners randomly-selected by the State Bureau of Physical Education between September and October of 1998. The total number of those who had become healthy and whose illnesses were removed reached as high as 97.9 %. Because of this, the State Bureau of Physical Education in China spoke highly of Falun Gong. After reading the open letter, the staff member asked me to wait for a while. Shortly afterwards I was asked to go to the reception room and have a talk with the person in charge.
The person in charge said, "We know that you are a Falun Gong practitioner. You often distribute information to Chinese tourists and take part in activities, such as the peaceful petition near the Chinese Embassy in Austria with other practitioners every week. There is no problem about the wear and tear on the cover of your passport. As long as you write a guarantee saying that you will give up practicing Falun Gong, your passport will be extended. And you will have no trouble when you go back to China." I answered him very clearly, "I won't give up practicing Falun Gong. Neutrality does not exist in front of kindness and evilness, right and wrong. Ignoring the evil persecution of kind and good people means conniving with the evil. Crimes unpunished by the law and plagued by lack of morality will only continue to spread viciously. Eventually, those who keep silent will become the next victim."
The person in charge asked, "If your passport is not extended, what will you do?" "I can do nothing but apply for asylum," I replied. The person in charge told me, "Austria has recently adopted a new law for refugees, and the investigation is very strict. I hope you will carefully consider it."
My fellow Chinese are being cruelly persecuted by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) authorities. To date, the number of Falun Gong practitioners in China who have been persecuted to death has reached as high as 3,020. These statistics are from July 1999 - April 2007, a period of 93 months. The average number of people who have been persecuted to death every month is 32. How can I see this and stand idly by? Together with all Falun Dafa practitioners in the world, I will try my utmost to call on all people to stop this inhuman physical and spiritual persecution of Falun Gong practitioners. The CCP even persecutes Falun Gong practitioners overseas, confiscating their passports and refusing passport extensions and renewals. This has happened in 18 countries including Austria, Canada, Japan, Italy, Switzerland, Hungary, Singapore, the UK, Ireland, Holland, France, Denmark, Australia, Spain, Belgium, the USA, Germany and New Zealand. Serious incidents of persecution have taken place overseas, such as CCP agents going to Falun Gong practitioners' homes and beating them, as well as destroying and stealing personal property. Recently, Jiang's group has also participated in abducting a Falun Gong practitioner and taking them back to China for further persecution.
Applying for Asylum
In mid March 2006, I told local Falun Gong practitioners of my experience at
the Chinese Embassy and my decision to apply for asylum. From then on, Falun
Gong practitioners in Austria started, unselfishly and enthusiastically, to help
me. My heart had been filled with warmth, which has helped me greatly in
enduring numerous bitter days and nights.
On March 16, 2006, the Falun Dafa Information Center quickly reported my experience, with pictures and words, on the Internet. A western practitioner, who had come to Austria as a youth because of persecution by a former Communist country in Eastern Europe, passed along my experience to the Austrian Parliament. Several western fellow practitioners interviewed me and broadcast it over the local radio station.
In the later part of March, accompanied by a western practitioner, we went to Caritas, an official refugee consultation center in Vienna. There we met with staff in different departments. The western practitioner told them about the cruel and illegal persecution of Falun Gong in China and of my experience. Finally, a legal worker in Caritas decided to apply for asylum to the Federal Refugee Office in Austria on my behalf. During the process, the legal worker told me that as Austria recently enacted a new law regarding refugees on January 1, 2006, my case would be her first one after the new law was implemented, therefore, she was not totally confident about it. She also told me that once the Refugee Office did not accept my asylum application, I would be deported to China. Under such a condition, she finally asked me to confirm that I wanted her as my representative. Through the interpreter, I peacefully asked her whether my situation accorded with that of other refugees. She said, "Of course." On March 26, I signed a notice giving her power of attorney. Later, the western practitioner said to me, "This is your test. Are you afraid? Let your fear go with the wind."
It was in early March that the western media reported that Jiang's group was removing organs from living Falun Gong practitioners in China. The evidence was irrefutable. Take liver transplants as an example. Medically, the liver is the only such organ a person has, and if a person's liver has been removed, he will die. According to official statistics in China, from 1991 to 1998, within these eight years, the total number of people who had liver transplants was only 78. Since 1999 (when the persecution of Falun Gong started in mainland China), the number of liver transplants has been increasing exponentially. In 1999 alone, the number of liver transplants was 118. In 2000, the number was 254, and in 2001 it was 486. In these three years, the total number of liver transplants was 996. By 2003, the number of liver transplants rose sharply to over 3,000. Traiskirchen, a refugee camp where I first submitted my asylum application, was thirty minutes' drive from Vienna, and my legal representative found me a driver and also a companion.
He was an older man in his sixties and a Christian from Austria. After his retirement from a bank, he worked for Caritas. On March 30 at 7:00 am, the older gentleman came to pick me up at my student quarters. This day was also my four-year anniversary of living in Austria.
We reached the refugee camp early. My initial application procedure was scheduled for the afternoon, so the older gentleman decided to use this period of time to drive me to a nearby well-known small town for a cup of coffee. Since I had a lot of truth clarifying materials about Falun Dafa in German, this was also a god-given opportunity for local people to learn about Falun Dafa. When we got there, the older gentleman found an open cafe in a busy street, where I distributed materials to passersby, and he quietly read my power of attorney notice and many other materials about Falun Dafa. When we went back to the refugee camp in the afternoon, we met four Chinese men who had also applied for asylum there.
April 6 was my first opportunity to meet with an official. The interview would determine whether the Federal Refugee Office in Austria would accept and hear my case. If they did not, I would possibly be deported. During the talk, which lasted about ninety minutes, I was asked about thirty questions, such as whether I was a Falun Dafa practitioner or only a sympathizer, when and where I started practicing Falun Gong, and something about my practicing Falun Gong in Austria and about myself. After the talk, my interpreter was pleased to tell me, "They have accepted your application." My international application for asylum would be officially delivered to the Federal Refugee Office in Austria and they would decide whether I would be granted refugee status.
In mid October 2006, my representative informed me that the Federal Refugee Office would question me according to legal procedure and then make a decision on my international application for asylum. My representative told me that the officer from the Refugee Office who was appointed to interview me was kind, and my representative knew her. But the appointed officer was not able to come on the 16th for some reason and was replaced by another officer from the Refugee Office. According to my representative, this officer was well known in the whole legal sector for his sternness and high rejection rate. Worried, my representative asked me whether or not I thought I needed an attorney specializing in Refugee Law. I told her that I did not need one. That day, we went with two other Falun Gong practitioners, a western doctor and his Chinese wife, to the Federal Refugee Office. At the beginning, the attitude of the officer was not very friendly. As the interview continued, his attitude gradually became kind. The interview lasted about two hours, during which time he asked, "Since you came to Vienna in 2002, why didn't you apply for asylum then but waited for the time when your passport would soon expire?" I told him, "I love my motherland. I don't want to lose my nationality easily." In fact, I had much to say but I did not. At that time, I had been wishing that before my passport expired, the CCP would stop its illegal persecution of Falun Gong so that I would be able to go back to the homeland I miss.
On March 5, 2007, I received the verdict from the Austrian Federal Refugee Office. I was granted refugee status according to "Asylum Law." On April 5, I got a Refugee Passport endorsed by the Austrian Republic. The entire procedure of my asylum application lasted one year, one month and nine days.
I understood two points when I was granted asylum.
1. During the past eight years, around 100 million Falun Gong practitioners have been persecuted in mainland China, and about a million people are being illegally detained in prisons, labor camps, brainwashing centers and mental hospitals. A great number of innocent Falun Gong practitioners have been persecuted to death. Even so, the persecution is still going on, taking place in a so-called civilized world. It has already been confirmed by the European Alliance and governments of other countries. I urge people not to doubt the confirmed reports of shocking crimes in China. If it were not true, foreign countries' governments would not grant real Falun Gong practitioners' asylum applications. Among asylum seekers from other countries are Afghans, Chechens, people from Kosovo and Iraq, most of whom are in danger of losing their lives because of bloody wars happening in their own countries, and they can do nothing but choose such a way of escape. In the eyes of officers in the Refugee Office, in present-day China there is no war, but Falun Gong practitioners are also facing the threat of losing their lives in mainland China. Therefore, Falun Gong practitioners also need assistance from the international community.
2. Falun Dafa is very good and righteous, a fact which has been recognized by
immigration officers. Falun Dafa takes Truthfulness, Compassion, Tolerance as
its principle, cultivates kindness and is peaceful. All Falun Gong activities
are open and voluntary. Cultivation of Falun Gong not only makes one healthy but
also makes one become honest, kind, tolerant and peaceful. Through cultivation,
one gains wisdom and becomes more discerning. Cultivating Falun Gong can
increase a society's stability, forgiveness and peacefulness and improve
people's quality of life, both physically and mentally.