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One-Child Policy Opposition Doesn't Prove Political Persecution

By Robyn Hagan Cain | Last updated on

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled today that opposition to China's one-child policy, absent further evidence of persecution, does not justify an immigration appeal reversal.

A three-judge panel denied petitioner Chun Hua Zheng's asylum denial appeal, finding that Zheng had not demonstrated that it was more likely than not that she would be persecuted for her political opinions if she returned to China.

A person "who has been persecuted for ... resistance to a coercive population control program," is considered to have been "persecuted on account of political opinion" under U.S. law. By that reasoning, Zheng's opposition to China's one-child policy was a strong start to proving her political persecution argument.

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, however, noted that the problem with Zheng's argument was that the evidence she provided to support her political persecution claim actually indicated that she had been roughed up by Chinese police for resisting arrest.

Zheng is from Fujian Province. Before Zheng left China, her unmarried cousin became pregnant. As unmarried women are not permitted to give birth in Fujian Province, family planning officers showed up at the cousin's home to arrest her, possibly intending to force her to have an abortion.

Zheng, who happened to be visiting the cousin when the officers arrived, claimed that she forcibly resisted their effort to seize the cousin. The officers responded by kicking, beating, and cursing her. She was bruised, and to an undetermined extent bloodied. Police arrested her, and she spent three days in jail. During that time, she was beaten twice. No charges were filed against Zheng. Several weeks later, she fled to the U.S.

An immigration judge (IJ), the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), and the Seventh Circuit agreed that Zheng's claims did not rise to the level of political persecution for which the government should grant asylum. In particular, the judges that reviewed Zheng's claim noted that "worse beatings than Zheng received have been held not to constitute persecution."

According to the Seventh Circuit, there is a difference between opposing a policy, and the tactics to which one resorts in opposing it. Here, it seems more likely that Zheng was beaten and jailed for assaulting family planning officers, even if the assault stemmed from her opposition to China's one-child policy.

While the Seventh Circuit noted that it finds China's one-child policy "abhorrent," it ruled that the IJ and the BIA did not err in concluding that Zheng failed to show by a preponderance of the evidence that she would suffer political persecution for her beliefs if she returned to China.

If you're appealing a one-child political belief asylum denial to the Seventh Circuit, keep in mind that you will need evidence that your client was persecuted for her beliefs, not her tactics, to prevail on appeal.

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