Chinese National Denied US Entry Over Chinese Communist Party Membership: Lawyer

September 25, 2020 Updated: October 13, 2020

NEW YORK—A Chinese national was recently turned away at a U.S. airport, in what might be the first known case of a visa ban due to the traveler’s status as a Chinese Communist Party member.

The person has a U.S. travel visa valid for 10 years. As the father of a U.S. citizen, he applied for a family-based immigration visa some months ago and had recently met with a Guangzhou consular officer for an interview, but was still awaiting a decision, according to his lawyer. Being advanced in years, the person didn’t withdraw from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) for fear of affecting his pension benefits.

On Sept. 17, he flew from China to the United States to visit his daughter. Customs authorities stopped him upon landing at the Detroit Metropolitan Airport and sent him on a next-day flight back to China, saying that he “does not meet the requirement for entering the United States,” according to Zheng Cunzhu, a U.S.-based immigration lawyer who consulted on the case.

Because of client confidentiality, Zheng didn’t disclose the person’s name.

The man’s travel visa was subsequently revoked. His daughter, who had been waiting at the airport to pick him up, later looked up his case at the National Visa Center on the State Department website, which indicated that his visa application was denied.

According to Zheng, the daughter said her father recalled nothing “unusual” during the visa interview, other than that he mentioned being a Party member.

The case comes at a time when the United States tightens up measures countering threats posed by the regime. The Trump administration in July reportedly considered putting a ban on U.S. visas for  CCP members. While deliberations were in its early stages, senior officials had circulated a draft of a possible presidential order that may deny visas to more than 90 million CCP members, Reuters reported at the time, citing an insider source.

While the U.S. administration has previously announced visa restrictions on specific Chinese officials for their roles in perpetuating human rights abuses, “this is probably the first case” of someone being turned away at the airport for their Party membership, Zheng said in an interview.

Given his client’s experience, any CCP member could risk being barred from U.S. entry, regardless of whether they are visiting as immigrants, tourists, or to see family, Zheng added.

People queue outside the US embassy in B
People queue outside the U.S. embassy in Beijing, on April 27, 2012. (Ed Jones/AFP/GettyImages)

According to the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act enacted in 1952, those applying for an immigrant visa are considered “inadmissible” if they are or have been “a member of or affiliated with the Communist or any other totalitarian party.” Exceptions are made for those who can prove their membership was involuntary or had been terminated at least two years before their visa application. On green card and immigration visa applications, U.S. authorities ask candidates whether they have been associated with any communist parties.

Immigration from China has become a contentious issue as U.S.–China tensions intensified over the pandemic, as well as Beijing’s military aggressions, spying concerns, and human rights abuses.

In September, the State Department revoked more than 1,000 visas for Chinese researchers with military ties. A department spokesperson told The Epoch Times at the time that they “continue to welcome legitimate students and scholars from China who do not further the Chinese Communist Party’s goals of military dominance.”

Zheng, noting that his client appeared eligible for immigration in all other aspects, advised him to “quit the Party as soon as he can.” Upon doing so, they could try reapplying as early as in two years, he said, citing the Foreign Affairs Manual, a comprehensive guidebook for the State Department’s policies and procedures.

The New York-based Tuidang Center, a nonprofit organization established in 2007 to coordinate grassroots efforts for people to formally withdraw from CCP-affiliated organizations, recently began issuing digital certificates in light of growing requests from the Chinese community around the world. The certificates are recognized by immigration authorities, with the statement printed in both English and Chinese, the center’s director Yi Rong recently told The Epoch Times.

The center has recorded more than 364 million entries to date, its website shows.

Commenting on the recent case, Yi said that the visa rejection should serve as a “warning bell” for all CCP members anywhere. As the world wakes up to the true nature of the regime, it would be wise to relinquish any existing Party ties, she said.

Zheng, who in 1989 organized protests in his hometown of Hefei to support pro-democracy students at Tiananmen Square, had the same message for anyone who still has CCP membership.

“If you have realized that this Party has violated what it promised to Chinese people and lied, I hope you can quit this organization earlier than later,” he said. “Don’t trade off the chance of immigration to the United States and reuniting with your children for the sake of pensions or rewards.”

A State Department official told The Epoch Times that “visa records are confidential under U.S. law,” and declined to comment further.

The Department of Homeland Security didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Luo Ya and Linda Lin contributed to this report.

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