Upper Tribunal (Immigration and asylum chamber), 2014-03-14, [2014] UKUT 86 (IAC) (QH (Christians - risk (CG))

Resolution Date:March 14, 2014
Issuing Organization:Upper Tribunal (Immigration and Asylum Chamber)
 
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Upper Tribunal

(Immigration and Asylum Chamber)


QH (Christians - risk) China CG [2014] UKUT 00086 (IAC)


THE IMMIGRATION ACTS



Heard at Field House

Determination Promulgated

On 6th June 2013



…………………………………



Before


UPPER TRIBUNAL JUDGE GLEESON

UPPER TRIBUNAL JUDGE KING TD


Between


QH

[anonymity order made]


Appellant

and


THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT



Respondent



Representation:


For the Appellant: Mr D O’Callaghan of Counsel, instructed by Howe and Co Solicitors

For the Respondent: Mr S Allen Senior Home Office Presenting Officer

Risk to Christians in China

  1. In general, the risk of persecution for Christians expressing and living their faith in China is very low, indeed statistically virtually negligible. The Chinese constitution specifically protects religious freedom and the Religious Affairs Regulations 2005 (RRA) set out the conditions under which Christian churches and leaders may operate within China.

  2. There has been a rapid growth in numbers of Christians in China, both in the three state-registered churches and the unregistered or ‘house’ churches. Individuals move freely between State-registered churches and the unregistered churches, according to their preferences as to worship.

  3. Christians in State-registered churches

  1. Worship in State-registered churches is supervised by the Chinese government’s State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA) under the RRA.

  2. The measures of control set out in the RRA, and their implementation, whether by the Chinese state or by non-state actors, are not, in general, sufficiently severe as to amount to persecution, serious harm, or ill-treatment engaging international protection.

  3. Exceptionally, certain dissident bishops or prominent individuals who challenge, or are perceived to challenge, public order and the operation of the RRA may be at risk of persecution, serious harm, or ill-treatment engaging international protection, on a fact-specific basis.

  1. Christians in unregistered or ‘house’ churches

  1. In general, the evidence is that the many millions of Christians worshipping within unregistered churches are able to meet and express their faith as they wish to do.

  2. The evidence does not support a finding that there is a consistent pattern of persecution, serious harm, or other breach of fundamental human rights for unregistered churches or their worshippers.

  3. The evidence is that, in general, any adverse treatment of Christian communities by the Chinese authorities is confined to closing down church buildings where planning permission has not been obtained for use as a church, and/or preventing or interrupting unauthorised public worship or demonstrations.

  4. There may be a risk of persecution, serious harm, or ill-treatment engaging international protection for certain individual Christians who choose to worship in unregistered churches and who conduct themselves in such a way as to attract the local authorities’ attention to them or their political, social or cultural views.

  5. However, unless such individual is the subject of an arrest warrant, his name is on a black list or he has a pending sentence, such risk will be limited to the local area in which the individual lives and has their hukou

  6. The hukou system of individual registration in rural and city areas, historically a rigid family-based structure from which derives entitlement to most social and other benefits, has been significantly relaxed and many Chinese internal migrants live and work in cities where they do not have an urban hukou, either without registration or on a temporary residence permit (see AX (family planning scheme) China CG [2012] UKUT 00097 (IAC) and HC & RC (Trafficked women) China CG [2009] UKAIT 00027).

  7. In the light of the wide variation in local officials’ response to unregistered churches, individual Christians at risk in their local areas will normally be able to relocate safely elsewhere in China. Given the scale of internal migration, and the vast geographical and population size of China, the lack of an appropriate hukou alone will not render internal relocation unreasonable or unduly harsh.


DETERMINATION AND REASONS

Pursuant to rule 14 of the Tribunal Procedure (Upper Tribunal) Rules 2008, the appellant has been granted anonymity throughout these proceedings and after their conclusion, absent any order to the contrary by the Upper Tribunal or any other Court seised of relevant proceedings. No report of these proceedings, in whatever form, either during the proceedings or thereafter, shall directly or indirectly identify the appellant or any member of her family. Failure to comply with this order could lead to a contempt of court.

  1. The appellant is a citizen of the People's Republic of China born on 10th June 1986. She appeals with permission against the decision of the First-tier Tribunal dismissing her appeal against the respondent’s decision to set removal directions to China, after refusing her asylum, humanitarian protection or leave to remain on human rights grounds. The appellant claims to be the daughter of a pastor of an unregistered Church in China and that on return she would be at risk of persecution, serious harm, or breach of her fundamental human rights, by reason of her desire to proselytise on behalf of her father’s church.

  2. This appeal was identified for possible country guidance on the risk on return for Christians in China. Given the need for expert evidence on the risk to Chinese Christians in general, as well as this appellant in particular, the appeal was adjourned for further evidence and it is thus that it came before the Upper Tribunal, essentially on the issue of safety of return.

Issues for country guidance

  1. We clarified with the parties that the focus of our consideration in this appeal would be on asylum, humanitarian protection and/or Article 3 of the ECHR rather than Article 8 of the ECHR, in answer to the following question:

To what extent do Christians in China have the ability or freedom to openly or publicly profess and practise their faith? Such to encompass the ability to proselytise and to associate with others of their faith.’

Inextricably linked with that question:-

To what extent and in what circumstances do Christians face persecution in China?’

  1. The following determination, to which we have both contributed, takes account of all the oral and documentary material before us, including the written and oral arguments of both parties.

Country evidence

  1. We had the benefit of a significant amount of both oral and written country evidence. The evidence before us is listed and set out more fully in the following Appendices:

          1. Appendix A. A full list of all material before the Upper Tribunal, together with links to relevant websites on which that evidence may be found.

          2. Appendix B. Evidence regarding the number of Christians in China and the recent rapid growth of Christianity, in both the official state-registered churches and the unregistered ‘house’ churches.

          3. Appendix C. The evidence of Professor Mario Aguilar, Chair of Religion and Politics at the School of Divinity (St. Mary's College) of the University of St Andrews, which was given both in his expert report of 23rd May 2013 and orally at the hearing. The report and relevant attachments are contained within bundle A in the documents before the Upper Tribunal, and consist of some 109 folios.

          4. Appendix D. The evidence of the Very Reverend Dr Christopher Hancock, Chaplain of St Peter’s College Oxford, in his February 2013 report, ‘Risks to Christians in China Today’.

  1. We have considered all the material to which our attention was specifically invited and we have had regard to all the documents and evidence before us at the hearing. Particular areas of evidence expressly considered in our determination can be found in the following paragraphs:

Subject

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Chinese legal framework

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