Monday, September 12, 2005
By BosNewsLife News Center
WASHINGTON, USA (BosNewsLife)– A Christian advocacy group expressed concern Monday, September 12 over "an unprecedented" decision by the United States to "deny asylum to a "house-church" Christian from Communist China."
Christian Freedom International (CFI) said Xiaodong Li was denied asylum in the US because he was a member of an "illegal" house church. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals reportedly upheld a US Board of Immigration Appeals decision.
"Li had fled to the U.S. seeking asylum after his apartment was raided by police in Ningbo, China. [He] was punched, kicked, and shocked with electric batons until he "confessed" to organizing "unauthorized" Christian house-church meetings," said CFI President Jim Jacobson in a statement to BosNewsLife News Center.
The US State Department, which has criticized China's religious and human rights record, has not yet reacted to these developments. "The Fifth Circuit Court ruling must be overturned. This decision flies in the face of everything America was founded on and stands for," Jacobson stressed.
MANY HOUSE CHURCHES
Millions of Christians in China gather in house congregations on principle grounds as they do not want to limit worship to Communist sanctioned state churches. "We believe the total number of Christians to be between 60 and 80 million, though it could be higher," said Christian rights group Open Doors in a recent position statement.
"Of this number, barely 17 million worship in the two officially organized churches of China — the Protestant Three Self Patriotic Movement ( 12 million members) and the Catholic Patriotic Association (5 million members)," Open Doors clamed.
"We reject the right of the government appointed church leaders to speak on behalf of the entire Chinese Christian community, and we are not surprised when they deny the existence of the house church millions," which the group said, "remain the world's largest single persecuted community today."
CFI President Jacobson, a former White House analyst, suggested he would therefore hope that American decision makers will not expel Li. "America has a long cherished tradition of recognizing the rights of the individual over the decrees of totalitarian regimes. In fact America was founded by men and women fleeing religious persecution," Jacobson recalled.
He said it is "unfortunate that a group of unelected officials, i.e., the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Board of Immigration Appeals, have lost sight of this."
The Board of Immigration Appeals is the highest administrative body for interpreting and applying immigration laws. It has been given nationwide jurisdiction to hear appeals from certain decisions rendered by Immigration Judges and by District Directors of the Department of Homeland Security.
Decisions of the Board are binding unless modified or overruled by the Attorney General or a Federal court. However "all Board [of Immigration Appeals] decisions are subject to judicial review in the Federal courts," CFI said. (With Stefan J. Bos, BosNewsLife Research and reports from China).
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