(CN) – An underage Chinese national will get a shot at asylum after he was forced to flee after he and his girlfriend violated China’s population control policy by living together and trying to marry, the 9th Circuit ruled.
The girlfriend, also underage, was forced by Chinese officials to have an abortion, which constitutes persecution, the panel ruled.
Nai Yuan Jiang successfully demonstrated that he suffered persecution at the hands of Chinese officials who forced his girlfriend to have an abortion after it was discovered that the two were living together and planning on marrying, even after they had been denied a marriage license because they are minors.
In his hearing before the immigration judge, Jiang claimed that he and his girlfriend Sui-Jhou had been expelled from school for holding hands, a violation of prohibitions against romantic relationships. After being expelled the couple began living together and decided to get married with or without the government’s permission.
When authorities found out they were living together, Jiang says he was put in jail and fined, and that his girlfriend was forced to have an examination which led to a forced abortion.
The couple say they later tried to hold a marriage ceremony but police raided it and beat up guests, breaking one guest’s leg and forcing the rest to run. Jiang fled to the United States and his girlfriend went into hiding in China.
The immigration judge denied Jiang’s petition for asylum after determining that he had failed to show that because he had resisted his nation’s coercive population control program he became the subject of abuse by the government.
On appeal, the three-judge panel disagreed and ruled that even though the Chinese government refused to recognize Jiang’s marriage, the marriage was valid and Jiang was the victim of persecution.
The law “does not prevent the spouse of a person who has physically undergone a forced abortion or sterilization procedure from qualifying for political asylum,” Judge Kim Wardlaw wrote for the Pasadena, Calif.-based panel.
In the scope of U.S. law, “a spouse includes an individual whose marriage would be recognized but for the enforcement of China’s coercive population control policy, as well as an individual whose marriage is officially recognized by Chinese authorities,” Wardlaw wrote.