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  • Dec 22, 2014
  • Updated: 6:41am
Edward Snowden
CommentInsight & Opinion

China missed chance for asylum payback by spurning Edward Snowden

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 17 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 17 July, 2013, 4:44am

Nothing tells a story better than numbers. So here's one: 9,541. For all the pussyfooting by China over one Edward Snowden, this many Chinese nationals were granted political asylum in the United States last year.

According to the Asylum Trends 2012 report, the US was the world's biggest provider and the Chinese were among the top five seekers of asylum - right up there with the Afghans, Syrians, Serbians and the Pakistanis. At some point China will have to ponder the incongruity of its rising global status and the number of asylum seekers it sends and receives (zero, it doesn't entertain any) and how this mismatch reflects on the country's image.

Not very well, obviously, but that's partly the idea. Throughout the cold war, granting asylum was an important tool for scoring ideological points, and it still is. There is, after all, no argument more cogent against a competing political belief system or a geopolitical rival than its own people trying to flee it.

In The Ethics and Politics of Asylum, Matthew J. Gibney outlines how the US used the policy of mass refugee admission for Hungarians and Cubans as reward for fighting communism. "The departure of the refugees offered strong evidence of the brutal implications of communist regimes whether they came to power in Europe or the Caribbean. How could any but the most barbarous regimes create such an exodus?" writes Gibney.

The hordes of Chinese asylum seekers today reinforce a similar perception of a brutal regime even though many of them are primarily economic migrants. It's easy to see why many in China would have a legitimate fear of state persecution but difficult to imagine that their numbers would be greater than Iraqis, Afghans or Somalis in need of protection. There's a clear bias in granting asylum to the Chinese, and not all of it is driven by humanitarian considerations.

Back to numbers. The 9,541 Chinese who were granted political asylum in the US last year were picked out of 25,396 applications from Chinese nationals, a 38 per cent success rate. In contrast, only 418 Mexicans from next door were given asylum though they formed the second-biggest bloc of applicants, at 15,284 - a 3 per cent success rate.

Beijing must have had its own reasons to turn its back on Snowden but given the blow its legitimacy is routinely dealt by the welcome accorded to Chinese asylum seekers, it could surely have mustered a more forthright response rather than hide behind technicalities.


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hard times !
please stop addressing this Old Hong Kong as ' Hey man'.Here is Hong Kong and not a part of America where 'hey man' is a very common way of addressing people !
hard times !
Please take note that Asia's world city has nothing to do with American English wrongly used / misused ---not observing the habitual use of English in a certain place !
hard times !
this Old Hong Kong fully agrees with what the writer says that China shouldn't turn away our whistle-blower,Mr.Snowden (by asking him to leave the territory on 23rd June) but instead granting him an asylum status in Hong Kong or Mainland since her political rival (and the potential foe in future wars) America had granted nearly 10,000 Mainland Chinese political asylum last year ---out of 25396 applicaitons.Compared with America's neighbour,Mexico,only 3 % of the applicants were granted asylum out of 15284 ! By accepting so-called political refugees reflects the brutal state of the country the refugees/applicants of political asylum ! If America dared take in 9541 Chinese nationals,I wonder why China, as a rising power, dared not take in just one Snowden ! Anyway,it was Russia which offered Snowden a political asylum in the first place after his fleeing from Hawaii. Well done,President Putin ! The world of netizens are proud of what you did and is doing now !
Hey man, you got anything to say about Xu Zhiyong's arrest ??
Asia's World City?????
Hey man, theres about 30,000 xu zhiyong in china every year, about 10% gets to live freely in US and elsewhere, and about 1/2 such ppl are under spotlight... SCMP will keep you posted ;) trust me... :D
Hey English Professor, can you once and forever clarify: In Hong Kong is it Center or Centre? Flat or Apartment? Trash or Garbage? But we are getting off the topic, anything else from you proponent of freedom of speech and expression about Xu Zhiyong, the one of the 30,000 that just got arrested?


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