(CN) – The 7th Circuit told immigration authorities to reconsider the asylum case of a Chinese man who allegedly faces persecution in his home country because he practices Falun Gong, a form of martial arts banned in China as a purportedly “evil cult.”
Shan Zhu Qiu says a childhood friend introduced him to qigong, a form of slow-moving exercise, to improve his health.
He says he later found out that qigong is a type of Falun Gong, which incorporates slow movements with moral and spiritual teachings. Falun Gong was banned by the Chinese government 11 years ago, and those caught practicing face imprisonment in labor camps, torture and even death.
“Finding out that he was practicing Falun Gong was, understandably, kind of a nasty shock for Qiu,” the ruling states.
When the group that Qiu had been secretly training with was discovered, Qiu fled to the United States, where he applied for asylum.
An immigration judge and the Board of Immigration Appeals acknowledged that Falun Gong practitioners can qualify for asylum, and that Qiu is a bona fide Falun Gong follower who fears persecution.
But the board ultimately decided that Qiu’s fear was not well-founded, because he could not prove how harsh his punishment would be.
On appeal, Qiu pointed to two Chinese government summonses and camera footage of his protests in front of the Chinese consulate in Chicago as evidence that he will be arrested if returned to China.
The Chicago-based federal appeals court agreed that persecution was likely and ordered the board to reconsider Qiu’s petition.
Judge John Tinder explained that “the only way Qiu can avoid persecution is to cease the practice of Falun Gong or hope to evade discovery.”
“Putting Qiu to such a choice runs contrary to the language and purpose of our asylum laws,” Tinder wrote.
On remand, the board must “reconcile the dilemma facing Qiu, the level of persecution he would face in China’s administrative system, and the asylum statute.”
The number of Falun Gong followers in China is estimated to be in the tens of millions.