Three-and-a-half years after fleeing China, Ruqiang Yu will be able to make his case that he faced persecution for protesting the treatment of workers in a state-owned factory.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit overruled earlier findings of both an immigration judge and the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) that Yu faced an isolated, “aberrational,” instance of corruption at the hands of the Chinese government.
The Department of Justice argued the case against Yu.
Yu was employed in management at a state-run airplane factory in China.
When factory officials started refusing to pay his workers based on a supposed slump in business, Yu saw through his superiors’ fabrication.
Due to his high position in the company, he knew that factory officials had been embezzling money for months and spending it lavishly on themselves.
When unpaid workers came to Yu in protest, he took action, even though he himself still received a salary.
Yu wrote an anonymous letter to the government’s Anti-Corruption Bureau revealing the officials involved in the embezzlement.
He then led an organized group of workers to protest in the office of the factory’s vice president.
The next day, four policemen arrived at the factory, handcuffed Yu, and charged him with disturbing the peace.
The police interrogated Yu for hours, beating him each time he denied writing the anonymous letter.
He ultimately yielded to the torture, signing a letter of confession.
Yu was released on bond, but police kept harassing him.
In February 2009, he fled China and filed for asylum in the U.S. shortly thereafter.
An immigration judge first heard Yu’s application for asylum. Although finding Yu’s testimony credible, the judge determined that his protest against the state-run factory did not constitute a “political opinion,” a legal requirement for asylum.The judge also found that the corruption Yu encountered was isolated and not sufficiently “endemic” to justify asylum under U.S. immigration law.
Yu appealed, but the BIA agreed with the immigration judge.
Friday’s decision at the Second Circuit overturned these findings.
The court stressed that the embezzlement at the factory was recurring, not just an aberration. Additionally, the fact that state police were employed to intimidate a whistleblower was seen as evidence of endemic political corruption beyond the factory.
The court added that the Chinese unmistakably thought Yu’s acts to constitute a political opinion in deciding to arrest and torture him for mere disturbance of the peace. The court found highly persuasive the fact that Yu, personally unaffected by the factory’s skimming of wages, selflessly undertook action for his workers.
The case will be returned to the BIA, which is required to rule to rule with Friday’s findings in mind.
The case is called Yu v. Holder.
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