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Whistleblower's credibility must be reassessed in asylum bid

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NEWS MEDIA UPDATE   ·   THIRD CIRCUIT   ·   Freedom of Information   ·   June 6, 2005

Whistleblower’s credibility must be reassessed in asylum bid

  • A Chinese pediatrician who allegedly was persecuted by her government for revealing government-sponsored infanticide to a reporter was improperly denied asylum by a U.S. administrative judge, a federal appellate court ruled last month.

June 6, 2005  ·   An immigration judge was wrong to reject a Chinese whistleblower’s asylum petition because the judge disagreed with what she perceived to be the woman’s immoral distinction between government-sponsored infanticide and forced late-term abortion to control population, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Philadelphia (3rd Cir.) ruled May 12.

Chinese pediatrician Yun Jun Cao’s plight for political asylum in the United States began in 1999 when she moved to a new floor in the Chinese hospital where she worked and discovered that newborn babies were being killed with alcohol injections when their mothers lacked population control permits required by the Chinese government, according to the court ruling.

A chance encounter with Hong Kong reporter Suen Yut at a party gave Cao what she believed was the opportunity to anonymously blow the whistle on the infanticide. However, Chinese authorities arrested her after intercepting a letter she mailed to the reporter. After she was released on bail, Cao escaped to the United States by bribing an acquaintance who worked as an airport official. As part of her petition for political asylum, she testified that she was tortured and beaten while in prison in China.

The U.S. immigration judge did not find her story credible and rejected her application. Because Cao admitted to having long known about China’s forced late-term abortions, which occurred as late as the ninth month of pregnancy, the judge found it improbable that she could have been so shocked to learn about the infanticide, calling her distinction “distasteful.” The Board of Immigration Appeals affirmed that ruling without explanation, and Cao appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals.

Judge Edward R. Becker wrote for the unanimous three-judge panel that the immigration judge’s “unwillingness to believe that Cao did not equate abortion and infanticide” caused her to disregard important parts of Cao’s testimony that did lend credibility to her story, and that were not contradicted by other evidence.

The court also took issue with the immigration judge’s incredulity at the idea that Chinese authorities would have even cared enough about Cao’s letter to the reporter to persecute her, since, according to the immigration judge, “you would have to be an ostrich with your head in the sand” to believe that China is not already aware that “the world knows that it has been definitely involved in forced sterilization and abortions and terminations of pregnancy.”

“The [immigration judge]’s supposition that China would not want to suppress an article that is critical of any government policy, runs contrary to the nature of an authoritarian regime that brooks little criticism, particularly in the international press,” Becker wrote.

The immigration judge also had found certain evidence of Cao’s behavior to be unreasonable and therefore unbelievable, but Becker said that such evidence, when uncontroverted, can sometimes be explained by the fact that “we can conceive of many instances where an individual would be willing to risk him or herself to protest a policy which he or she abhors.”

The case has been remanded to the Board of Immigration Appeals for further proceedings.

(Cao v. Attorney General, Counsel: Norman Kwai Wing Wong, Philadelphia)RL

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