Over Half Million Chinese People Applied for Refuge Overseas Over 9 Years

By Nicole Hao
Nicole Hao
Nicole Hao
Nicole Hao is a Washington-based reporter focused on China-related topics. Before joining the Epoch Media Group in July 2009, she worked as a global product manager for a railway business in Paris, France.
August 2, 2021 Updated: August 4, 2021

More than 600,000 Chinese citizens applied to another country for asylum from 2012 to 2020, with annual applicants increasing sevenfold over those years, media reported recently.

A number of British media reported over the past week that, based on data obtained from the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the annual number of mainland Chinese applying for refugee status overseas from 2012 to 2020 jumped to 107,864 from 15,362.

The number of Chinese asylum-seekers was stable from 2000 to 2009, in the range of 15,000 to 25,000 annually. In 2010, the number suddenly dropped to around 8,000, before increasing rapidly.

Meanwhile, the Chinese Communist Party announced on July 30 that it had issued 335,000 passports in the first half of this year, which is only 2 percent of the total passports that it had issued in the year-earlier time frame. The regime vowed that it would maintain strict control over the issuing of passports to Chinese citizens, and that only those who can verify they need to leave China for study, work, or business have the right to apply for or renew a passport.

Beijing authorities have claimed that the limits on issuing passports were for COVID-19 pandemic control. Chinese people from different regions told the Chinese-language Epoch Times on July 31 they believe that the regime’s real purpose is to prevent people from fleeing China.

Epoch Times Photo
Members of the Uyghur community in Istanbul hold placards to ask for news of their relatives in China on Dec. 30, 2020. (BULENT KILIC/AFP via Getty Images)

A teacher from Shandong Province surnamed Li said that he couldn’t apply for a passport because he used to be a human rights lawyer and the regime was afraid he would flee China.

Chen Minghui, a political observer in Shanghai, is in a worse situation: “They [a Shanghai official] cut my passport and revoked it several years ago. Since then, it’s been harder and harder to apply for a new one.”

Chen says the regime uses the pandemic as an excuse to restrict people’s movements.

“I think [Xi Jinping’s authorities] are preventing senior Chinese officials from fleeing China as well,” he added.

In fact, people from all classes are trying to flee China and emigrate to other countries legally and illegally, such as the United States, Canada, European countries, Australia, and New Zealand.

In September 2020, a leaked document that revealed some Chinese politicians, billionaires, and criminals had obtained Cypriot passports by investing more than $2 million in the country.

Since 2013, China has been one of the top origin countries of immigrants in the United States, according to the Migration Policy Institute. In 2019, 2.48 million Chinese legally immigrated to the United States, which made up 17.6 percent of total immigrants that year.

Not only mainland Chinese, but Hongkongers are now also trying to escape the Chinese regime’s totalitarian rule since Beijing implemented its national security law (NSL). Beijing officials passed the NSL on June 30 last year and have been arresting individuals on vague charges, with some dissidents already having received years-long prison sentences.

On July 18, the day before a deadline by the British government to allow Hongkongers the right to emigrate to the UK, Hong Kong’s International Airport was jammed with people waiting for a flight to go there.

Epoch Times Photo
People pack the check-in area for their flight to the UK at Hong Kong’s International Airport on July 18, 2021. (BERTHA WANG/AFP via Getty Images)

According to Hong Kong government data, there were twice as many passengers who left Hong Kong by plane in the past month as those who arrived.

Nicole Hao
Nicole Hao
Nicole Hao is a Washington-based reporter focused on China-related topics. Before joining the Epoch Media Group in July 2009, she worked as a global product manager for a railway business in Paris, France.