A United States court for the first time ruled that a Chinese national who was persecuted by the Chinese authorities for helping North Korean refugees are entitled to asylum, RFA reported Friday.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled March 23 that a Chinese national, identified as Li Xun, is entitled to a right to asylum in the United States, overriding a previous ruling by the U.S. immigration court in 2003.
The ruling, the first of its kind, heralds a new breakthrough in one of the most neglected human rights abuses in the world, by legally providing a safe haven for Chinese nationals who are persecuted by the Chinese government because they helped North Korean refugees, analysts say.
The U.S. government enacted a special act in 2004 to protect North Korean refugees and improve North Korea's human rights conditions. Six refugees from North Korea, including women who were trafficked in China, arrived in the US in May 2006 to become the first North Koreans to be given asylum in America.
Li, 38, is from China's Jilin province, near the China-North Korean border. Li was brutally beaten by the Chinese security apparatus for helping North Korean refugees and was detained in a labor camp. With the help of family members, Li escaped and subsequently fled to South Korea, then to Canada before arriving in Seattle.
After relocating to Los Angeles, Li applied for political asylum in May 2003.
Once estimated to near 300,000 in the North's worst famine period in the mid-1990s, South Korean Embassy estimates that there are currently some 30,000 North Korean refugees hiding in China.