Chinese not buying Xi’s dream as asylum numbers soar
The number of Chinese people seeking asylum outside their country has grown steadily over the 12 years that Xi Jinping has been in power, new data from the UN’s refugee agency UNHCR shows.
The numbers of asylum seekers have increased as Xi’s regime has become increasingly oppressive and intrusive.
In 2012, the number of Chinese asylum seekers was 15,362. In 2020, it had grown to 108,071 and last year reached 120,000.
Indian news agency ANI recently reported that the elite and middle class of China are making desperate attempts to flee the country and seek political asylum in other countries.
“Since Xi Jinping took power in 2012, Chinese economic growth may have slowed down as China entered the world of middle-income nations, and since at least 2017 also run into structural issues forcing ever-larger stimulus input to keep growth going, but nonetheless, China has continued to deliver a strong foundation for people to economically improve their lives, barring the current COVID lockdowns,” the ANI report said.
Despite this, asylum-seekers continue to increase, with no end in sight.
In one year of Xi Jinping’s rule, 2021, China has now had more asylum-seekers than during the last eight years of his predecessor Hu Jintao’s rule.
In fact, since 2012 China has seen some 730,000 people seeking asylum. Also, more than 170,000 people are living outside of China under refugee status.
The UNHCR data suggests a continued increase in numbers.
But it is clear that seeking asylum is for many a desperate act, undertaken by people with few other options.
The United States is far the most popular choice, with 88,722 people seeking asylum there. The only other place that has been consistently popular is Australia, which saw 15,774 asylum-seekers last year.
Canada, Brazil, South Korea, and the UK also see Chinese asylum-seekers in the thousands.
Europe, outside of the UK, remains far less popular, with Spain taking in 900, compared to Germany’s 379 and France’s 248.
Many European countries have received zero asylum-seekers, which also applies to most of Asia, all of Africa except South Korea and Egypt, and most of the Middle East.
Researcher Jing-jie Chen, working for Asian human rights group ‘Safeguard Defenders said’ the data also reflects the impact of Xi’s zero-COVID policy, which has led to gruelling lockdowns and draconian restrictions on 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. Despite the lockdowns, 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,” Mr Chen said.
“Many people are voting with their feet and opting to emigrate from China, either through overseas study or investment visas and residency cards,” he added.
The rights group said that seeking asylum was 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 US, Australia, and beyond, often via naturalization, work visas or property purchases.
The group says reports of human rights violations in China, calls for greater transparency and the obvious conditions prevailing within the country have led to greater repression. This allows Xi to consolidate total power in his hands.
It says Chinese law enforcement agencies routinely track, harass, threaten and repatriate people who flee China, under its SkyNet surveillance program that reaches far beyond China’s borders, using a variety of means to have them forcibly repatriated.
“China has also often used pliant allies to circumvent criminal justice processes and ensure political refugees and Muslims are sent back. It has targeted ethnic groups like the Uyghurs, but also political dissidents, rights activists, journalists and former officials using its overseas networks,” according to a 2021 report by Safeguard Defenders.
The report also revealed that the Chinese Government has a coordinated international operation called “Operation Foxhunt” to force Chinese nationals to return home.
Mr Chen said the ‘Foxhunt’ plan amounted to the global oppression of dissidents that extends internationally.