Record numbers of Chinese granted refugee status in Japan
- New high of 11 comes despite travel restrictions, as those fleeing China cite alleged intolerance of religious and political beliefs and Beijing’s actions in Xinjiang
- Support groups say Hong Kong residents are expected to be among those seeking asylum in near future
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A total of 47 foreigners were recognised as refugees and permitted to remain in Japan in 2020, of whom 11 were Chinese, according to the Immigration Services Agency of Japan. However, none of the 11 are from Hong Kong.
In 2018, 308 Chinese applied to be recognised as refugees in Japan, with just four applications approved. In 2019, of the 134 applications, zero cases from Chinese nationals were approved.
In 2020, 77 applications filed by Chinese were rejected but 11 people were successful.
“Typically, these people come to Japan on tourist visas and then seek refugee status, but the number of Chinese coming to Japan on holiday last year dropped sharply because of the coronavirus,” said Daisuke Sugimoto, secretary general of the Japan Lawyers Network for Refugees.
“They tell us that the situation in China has worsened for them, particularly when it comes to restrictions on religious activities.”
Members of the Falun Gong sect, along with Christian groups, were among those that have sought refugee status, support groups said.
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Hadano said that “hundreds” of foreigners were applying each year for refugee status but the vast majority were rejected. They were, however, permitted to reapply if their situation changed.
A spokesman for the Immigration Services Agency declined to comment on the increase in Chinese nationals being granted permission to remain in Japan as refugees or their reasons for leaving China.
Sugimoto said in the 30 years to 2015 just two Chinese were recognised as refugees by the Japanese authorities, so the uptick in recent years was a significant improvement.
“I believe the government here is changing its attitude towards Chinese seeking refugee status and altering their policies towards applicants,” he said.
“And we believe that they are expecting more applications in the future, including from Hong Kong, as we know that the agency has produced information in Chinese that is specifically designed for people arriving in Japan from Hong Kong.”