Last Updated: Tuesday, 16 September 2014, 13:37 GMT

China: Report of a fact-finding mission to Fuzhou by Political Counsellor, Canadian Embassy, Beijing

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada
Publication Date 23 March 2000
Citation / Document Symbol CHN34099.E
Reference 5
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, China: Report of a fact-finding mission to Fuzhou by Political Counsellor, Canadian Embassy, Beijing, 23 March 2000, CHN34099.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6ad3d4.html [accessed 17 September 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Attached is the report of a fact-finding mission by the Political Counsellor, Canadian Embassy, Beijing. The complete report, including photographs, is available in Regional Documentation Centres.

Heaven is High and the Emperor Far Away: Report from the Fuzhou Metropolitan Counties of Lianjiang, Mawei, Fuqing, and Changle

SUMMARY: 2530JAN00, Counsellor Political, Dr. Charles Burton, met with officials of the Fuzhou Municipal Government and officials in the four counties of metropolitan Fuzhou from where the recent irregular immigrants to Canada by boat originate. Over the four days he also met with several illegal emigrants who had been returned from abroad to their village homes in these four counties.  A site visit to the Mawei Second Public Security Detention Centre of Fuzhou City where some returned illegal emigrants are held on return was made on 27JAN00.

2. Purpose of the visit was to explore issues of interest to Canada relating to local implementation of Chinese Government policies on religion, birth control, illegal organizations and repatriation of illegal emigrants from Lianjiang, Mawei, Fuqing and Changle.To this end meetings were sought with heads of local Government at the municipal, township, county, and village levels and with officials of the Religious Affairs Bureau, State Family Planning Commission, Women's Federation, Ethnic Affairs Commission, Ministry of Civil Affairs and Ministry of Public Security. Several site visits to coastal areas and villages where there is a high prevalence of illegal emigration were made, which allowed for spontaneous informal contact with local residents.All meetings were conducted in Mandarin , which is spoken and understood throughout this district, without interpretation.The local authorities were consistently highly cooperative and accommodated all of the Embassy's requests for access, and facilitated oneonone unsupervised meetings between the Political Counsellor and failed illegal emigrant returnees, and with villagers.

3. Findings are as follows:

i. Falungong: According to local authorities, this organization had fewer followers in Fujian than in any other Chinese province.We were advised that there were less than 200 Falungong practitioners in the four counties in metro Fuzhou that have been the source of illegal immigration to Canada.The demographic of typical Falungong practitioners (older, urban, often in uncertain health and predominantly female) is not consistent with most of the illegal immigrants arriving in Canada by boat.

ii. Religion: There is a high degree of religious tolerance in this part of China.  In Changle county only 10 of 80 Catholic parishes are affiliated with the state sanctioned Catholic Patriotic Association (CPA).The other 70 remaining loyal to Rome are technically illegal and therefore "underground churches," but reportedly these congregations are not harassed by the local authorities at present.Reports of the recent arrest of Yang Shudao, Archbishop of the Fuzhou Archdiocese, who has consistently refused to cooperate with the CPA, is a cause for concern.Archbishop Yang has served close to 30 years in detention in China since his first arrest in 1955.  However his arrests have not directly impacted on the activities of local congregations in the four rural counties which are the subject of this report.  In recent years Catholics there have been allowed to profess their faith in accordance with their own consciences.  There is no indication that this is about to change.  Nevertheless, the Embassy will continue to monitor the situation closely.Various forms of Protestant religious expression thrive in metro Fuzhou.  The numbers of faithful grow rapidly year by year. There is much evidence of construction of new churches to meet the increasing demand for places of  worship.Diversity of religious expression seems more extensive here than in other parts of China, including the indigenous "Little Flock" sect and Seventh Day Adventists Seventh Day Adventist church visited on request of Political Counsellor after spotting it from the car while travelling in Fuqing County is shown at right We were apprised of "an extreme antiCommunist" Christian sect "the Huhan" faction that was declared illegal and suppressed in the 1980s, but this group is evidently very small and largely inactive now.

iii. Birth Control: There is less effective enforcement of the "one child" policy here than in other parts of China.  Almost one third of families in the four counties have three children or more.Sanctions against "out of plan" births have not proven effective.  There are incentive programs to encourage compliance instead.  Family planning workers are now required to pass qualifying examinations to demonstrate understanding of Government birth control policies and practices.Forced abortion and forced sterilization are reportedly not tolerated now, although local official acknowledge there were problems with this in the past.

iv. Social Organizations: There is no evidence of activity by "illegal" political parties, trade unions or other "illegal" social organizations in this part of Fujian.

v. Treatment of Repatriated Illegal Migrants: There is evidence of wilful deception of foreign governments as to sanctions against returned illegal migrants.  Much touted policies of prison sentences and extensive reeducation programs are apparently mostly not implemented.  Rather we have become aware of preferential economic policies and business loans made available to returnees by local governments.We are assured that children under 16 returned to China would not be subject to incarceration under any circumstances.

vi. Complicity of Local Officials in People Smuggling: There are strong indications that this is so, but to date only circumstantial evidence to support these allegations.

4. Southern China has a long history of emigration to foreign nations.  As it has become more and more difficult over recent years for unskilled people to successfully apply for legal entry to advanced industrialized nations, "people smuggling" has increased to meet the aspirations of Fujianese clans to continue the tradition of sending promising young people abroad to seek their fortune and bring honour to their native villages.An estimated 100,000 Chinese are smuggled to the West every year.  It is reported that some coastal towns in Fujian annually lose one of ten residents to emigration abroad. The China Daily reported earlier this month that some 9,000 stowaways and 800 "snakeheads" were detained in China last year.Of these, according to statistics given in the Xiamen Daily, 94 attempts to smuggle 1,477 people were foiled in the Fuzhou area.The recent 600 Chinese nationals that have been discovered attempting to enter Canada by boat have originated in the Metropolitan area of Fuzhou.  Most of these 600 have asked to be allowed to stay in Canada as refugees based on fear of political persecution should they be returned to China.(Mr. Yu, a Christian, returned from Japan shown at right  with "Last Supper" print and poster reading "Jesus is the Lord of our home" over the portal).

5. Because of the high level of interest in their area of origin, there has been extensive travel to the Fuzhou area since 1998 by officials of the Embassy Immigration Section, and more recently by CIC ADM Greg Fyffe accompanied by DG Enforcement, Elizabeth Tromp. Ambassador Balloch visited Fuzhou 2021JAN00. The Political Counsellor was sent by the Embassy to follow up these visits by visiting the more rural areas from where the recent irregular immigrants originate with a view to gaining better understanding of the situation "on the ground" ("Anti Illegal Emigration Station" facing sea at Guantou Town staffed 24 hours a day by sleeping Public Security Bureau Officers, man on my left is Mr. Zhang Ling, Town Head).

List of people met given in "Appendix A".

6. Meetings with Fujian Provincial and Local Government Officials

i. Family Planning: Briefing by the officials of the Fujian Family Planning Committee described new procedures to ensure professional standards in family planning work at the local level which involve qualifying examinations and refresher courses.Forced abortion and forced sterilization are no longer accepted methods for resolving noncompliance with the Government's birth control policy.  At present, the average number of children per family in Fujian is 1.56

33.7% of families have one child

33.1% of families have two children

27.8% of families have three or more children.

b. To encourage couples to comply with family planning policies various incentives are offered to couples willing to sign a pledge to follow State policy.  Political Counsellor was furnished with examples of cards given to families pledging to follow Gov't birth control policy: one offering 5% off grocery purchases at a local supermarket (excepting tobacco and alcoholic beverages), another allowing 10% off membership in a women's health club and, most intriguingly, a card offering a 20% discount for treatment for venereal disease at a local clinic.  Other incentives include 20% discounts on home electricity and reductions in school fees. Ninetythree per cent of Fujian families with women of childbearing age are estimated to use some regular method of birth control.Eighty per cent of local women use the IUD as their method of birthcontrol.  After two children, sterilization by tubal ligation is encouraged, but not required.The operation is typically done at a Clinic near the woman's home. For those couples who prefer use of condoms or birth control pills, these are also available at no cost (with a small supplementary charge for imported condoms).

c. Meetings with local officials in Lianjiang, Fuqing and Changle counties confirmed local implementation of these policies (some of officials met in Changle shown at right, including on my right the DeputyMayor whose parents have an outstanding application for a visa to visit his sister, a Canadian citizen resident  in Scarborough, Ontario; second from the right is Zhou Xiaomin, deputy director of the Changle Public Security Bureau referred to below).Fines for "out of plan" babies typically amount to 60-100% of a family's annual income.The officials in Fuqing asked that it be noted that use of the word "fine" to describe the monies extracted from families with out of plan babies is not accurate.  It is rather a "social subsidy fee" as the rationale is to have families compensate society at large for the cost of maintaining and educating "extra" children.  In all three counties it was noted that extracting these fines from villagers is difficult.

d. It is evident that to date the Fujian local authorities in the four counties visited have lacked the capacity or will to effectively implement the Central Government's national birth control policy.  Fujian is far from Beijing and a long tradition of false reporting to central authorities and only feigned compliance with national edicts is very well established in the province's history.  The Chinese saying for this phenomenon translates as "Heaven is high and the Emperor is far away."

 

ii. Civil Affairs: Questioning ensued on measures to address "illegal" associations.At all meetings in Fuzhou and the county towns and villages, it was affirmed that Fuzhou has no branch of the China Democracy Party or other "unregistered" political organizations, nor have there been any incidences of "illegal" trade unions in this part of Fujian.Based on other information available to us, these assertions are credible. Over half of the places of religious worship in the area are "as yet" unregistered (photo shows discussion with Protestant Ministers at former Anglican Church in Longtian Town, Fuqing County re: status of unregistered "meeting places" in local villages that are affiliated with this church that receives an average of 1,200 worshippers every Sunday.  This discussion was videotaped [the sole incidence of this intrusion], but the presence of the camera did not seem to inhibit the frankness of discussion.  The stop at this Church was at my request and clearly not anticipated in advance).This situation does not seem to trouble the local authorities.In other parts of China congregations at unregistered places of worship are periodically subject to police harassment on direction of the local bureaux for Civil Affairs.No indication that this has been the case in the four counties visited was found.  Extensive interviews with Christians throughout the visit suggested that relations with local authorities have been consistently nonconfrontational in recent years.  These four counties have a high per centage of Christian faithful compared with other parts of Fujian, a legacy of a strong presence of British and American Christian missionaries operating out of Fuzhou in the preCommunist period.It is interesting that such these counties, whose main distinction from others nearby is their "Christianess," are the source of irregular immigration to Canada.

b. Much of the discussion with Civil Affairs authorities centred on local handling of the ban on the Falungong.In Lianjiang (population 620,000) there were 70 people found to have practised Falungong and only 5 or 6 people who had done it over a long period "mostly depressed and lonely older women who suffered from chronic illnesses."  In Fuqing (pop. 120,000), 29 Falungong practitioners were identified."They all gave it up the same day we contacted them about it."  In Changle (pop. 680,000) there were "40 to 50 people who did Falungong for health reasons who all gave it up when they realized the political nature of the Falungong organization."  The Falungong did not have an administrative office in Fujian.Fujian was covered by the Guangdong Falungong headquarters.Most Falungong practitioners were in the urban areas of Xiamen and Fuzhou "with a few living in remote mountainous counties."

 

iii. Religious Affairs: Several churches were visited in all four counties many of these spontaneous visits at Political Counsellor's request ("please stop the car here, I'm going in").In all of these churches, local Christians and ministers were engaged in private discussions.Officials responsible for Religious Affairs were interviewed in three of the the four counties, the exception being Mawei (at right:massive new Protestant Cathedral with seating for 1,600  in downtown Changle built in 1997 located walking distance from 1904 church of comparable size currently still in use and under renovation).As with the birth control policy, Central policy inhibiting freedom of religious expression does not appear to be much followed here.Discussions with Ministers confirmed that forms of worship variant from the form of post denominational Protestant service endorsed by the state supported China Christian Council and Protestant Three Self Movement are tolerated here (as they are not in other parts of the country).  Most of the Catholic churches have not affiliated with the Catholic Patriotic Association and remain loyal to Rome.  These Catholic churches are not able to be registered.  On questioning local officials indicated that "we try to convince them to affiliate with the CPA, but if they won't, there is nothing we can do" an encouragingly enlightened attitude.

Treatment of Returnees

7. On 26JAN00, Political Counsellor visited the Second Public Security Detention Centre of Fuzhou Municipality.It is located in a beautiful mountainous setting in site of orange groves and banana plantations in Mawei County (at gate with Prison Warden and plain clothes local Public Security official). Visit to this facility was requested after Embassy became aware of press reports that210 illegal emigrants from the Fuzhou area to Japan had recently been incarcerated in this facility.On arrival at the prison there were police parading in the courtyard, but no prisoners present.  We were advised that they had only been held for two days before being returned to their native places.  The prison is a copy of a Japanese design complete to the cells with tatami mats.  Each cell (accommodating 20) has washing and toilet facilities en suite and there are ping pong tables in the common area on every floor.  The cafeteria resembled that of a Canadian High School. On the roof there is a large penthouse suitable for receiving official visitors.

8. The Political Counsellor found it unusual that three young women in Public Security Bureau uniforms were intensely watching the monitors of the control centre that show the cell blocks, interrogation rooms, etc. when the prison was empty of prisoners.Conversation with these "guards" revealed that they are actually students from Huaxia University in Quanzhou, a city located nearby in southern Fujian, and not employees of the prison at all (shown at right). 

9. This prison has so far only received 2 groups of returnees since construction last year: 240 from the U.S. and the more recent group from Japan.  Over 160 returnees from Taiwan are expected once the seas are calm enough to allow the journey across the strait by boat (Metro Fuzhou is only 6,000 metres across the sea from the Nationalistheld island of Mazu).None of the thousands of people caught in the course of emigration have been sent here, nor have any of the returnees from Canada.

10. Indeed, not a single one of all the returnees interviewed by the Political Counsellor had been incarcerated on return to China.  This while in the course of briefings much was made of a new policy of incarceration of returned illegal emigrants: 2 to 3 months for a first offence and up to a year for subsequent attempts to illegally emigrate.  Questioning on this evident inconsistency, eventually elicited a frank response from two independent sources using the same language that suggests reference to an "internal" document.  Both said prison sentences (and presumably use of the Mawei Second Public Security Detention Centre) are only applicable to those illegal emigrants "who bring disgrace to the nation."

11. Aside from the issue of maintaining national dignity there is no incentive for China to restrict emigration.Overseas Chinese are predominant in foreign investment in China and send foreign currency to China in the form of remittances. Moreover emigration takes pressure off social effects of overpopulation and unemployment and contibutes to ridding China of disaffected elements

12. The case of Mr. Yang of Binyu Village in Zhanggang Township of Changle County (depicted at right) is typical of many recounted to the Political Counsellor.  Mr. Yang is an engaging and wellspoken married man who is 30 years old.He attempted to relocate to the United States in the summer of 1997 on a boat with 150 other migrants, only one other from his village.  The fare for passage was over 300,000 Chinese yuan (about CAN$60,000), payable only on successful arrival in the U.S.  The snakehead organization paid his way from Fuzhou to Shanghai by train and then on to Tianjin and then back down the coast to Qingdao in Shandong Province.He was 70 days at sea under appalling conditions.  For the first ten days meals were regular, but subsequently there was irregular provision of food leading to riots on the boat.  Resentment against the snakeheads for charging so much for such inferior transport is high.  They are reviled by everyone interviewed. 

13. The boat was captured off the coast of the U.S.  Mr. Yang was held in the U.S. for 3 months.  He did not request refugee status nor was he able to contact anyone in the U.S. to help him gain release.  He was eventually flown to Shanghai and returned to Changle the next day.He was not fined, but attended "study sessions" for five days. 

14. On return to Binyu he found himself unemployed.  The local authorities in Binyu feeling sorry that his attempt to become an overseas Chinese had failed subsequently loaned him a sum of money. Mr. Yang used this to buy a factory in Hubei Province (he was home for Chinese New Year when I met him and his spouse).The factory has done well and Mr. Yang has been able to return all the money loaned him.

15. Similarly, another Mr. Yang from same village met me in the dried sea products packaging factory that the village gave him to manage after his return from unsuccessful migration to Osaka, Japan (he was rounded up after 3 years of illegal work there).His clansmen had paid his passage to Japan in advance.He regrets that his income in Japan was too modest to allow him to send money back.  This Mr. Yang was flown to Beijing and transferred to Fuzhou the next day.  There was no fine or period of detention.  His packaging plant is doing well.  He feels that he is much better off in Binyu Village than he had been in Osaka.. This is also characteristic of what other returnees from Japan said.

16. The four counties of metro Fuzhou visited for this report are among the wealthiest rural areas in China.Extensive construction work is evident throughout the area, including a large prevalence of fivestorey "palatial" homes presumably demonstrative of the importance of remittances from abroad to the local economy.  Modern conveniences such as home telephones, large colour TVs, refrigerators, air conditioners, washing machines are the norm in local residences.Migrant workers from other parts of China, who have come to the Fuzhou area to seek their own fortunes are a visible presence all over these counties. 

17. The local legends are evidently all people who left illegally to seek their fortune abroad in Southeast Asia.Knowledge about emigration options, both legal and illegal is very sophisticated among ordinary people in the Fuzhou area.  Similarly knowledge about the risks and opportunities of illegal emigration by boat is comprehensive in these villages. 

18. In discussions with Changle County officials, the Deputy Director of the local Public Security Bureau took great exception to the Political Counsellor's suggestion that underage women may be subject to rape by snakeheads and that a life of prostitution may await those who eventually touch base in the United States.The Deputy Director's vehement response that such things could never occur and that conditions on the boats are not so bad seemed directed at the general audience.  One suspected he was speaking for the interests of snakeheads.Nevertheless while there is evidence that local officials have been very much involved in smuggling of goods, there is not yet sufficient evidence of complicity in people smuggling, although it seems hard to imagine that payoffs by snakeheads are not rife.Should it come to light that Chinese Government officials are involved in illegal emigration, this could become a major issue in our bilateral relations.

19. As in the past, from Fuzhou "heaven is high and the Emperor far away."  While this suggests that corruption, smuggling, other tax evasion and false reporting to Beijing continue to be characteristic of Fujian‑Central Government relations, it also suggests that the repressive policies of the Chinese state with regard to political and social freedoms are mostly not implemented by the authorities in this area.

20. The author of this report has traveled widely in China over the past 25 years. The overall conclusion of this investigation of conditions in Changle, Fuqing, Mawei and Lianjiang counties is that human rights are much better protected in this part of Fujian than in most other parts of China.

Drafted by Charles Burton

Approved by Ted Lipman

Places and Persons Visited

The Foreign Affairs Office of Fujian Provincial People's Government

Gao Jiahua, Deputy DirectorGeneral;

Yu Daodang, Division Director

Lin Xuefeng, Deputy Division Director, Exit Regulatory Division;

Shen Ziling, Senior Staff Member

Fujian Civil Affairs Bureau

Chen Humin, Director

Public Security Bureau of Fujian Province

Chen Dingwu, Division Director, Frontier Management Section of Frontier Defence Department

Xu Keqiao, Division Director, ExitEntry Administration Division

Fujian Religious Affairs Bureau

Chen Cheng, Division Director;

Fujian Family Planning Committee

Yong Xiuying, ViceChairman

Han Xiaoqing, Vice Office Director

Fujian Women's Federation

LiFengming, Deputy Director, Propaganda Section

Foreign Affairs Office of Fuzhou Municipal People's Government

Liu Guanghui, Interpreter

Mawei Second Public Security Detention Centre of Fuzhou Municipality

People's Government of Lianjiang County

Zhang Ling, Deputy Magistrate

People's Government of Changle City

Zhang Xingkui, Deputy Mayor

People's Government Office of Changle City

Ke Tianshou, Director;

Chen Xiaoping, Deputy Director;

Lin Chuanchun, Secretary

Changle Public Security Bureau

Zhou Xiaomin, Deputy Director

Changle Women's Federation

Wang Meiying, President

Changle Family Planning Committee

Zeng Guojin, Director

Changle Civil Affairs Bureau

Chen Hengjin, Director

Changle Religious Affairs Bureau

Chen Jiazhuo, Director

Fuqing Municipal Party Committee

Chen Zhenying, Member of the Standing Committee

Fuqing Civil Affairs Bureau

Xue Minkang, Deputy Director

Fuqing Religious Affairs Bureau

Li Yicheng, Deputy Director

Fuqing Public Security Bureau

Ni Chunshun, Deputy Director

Foreign Affairs Office of Fuqing City

Women's Federation of Fuqing City

Gao Bixia, Chairman

Fuqing Family Planning Committee

Dai Xiuhong, Deputy Chief

People's Government of Longtian Town, Fuqing City

Chen Hengdong, Chief of the Town

Party Committee of Longtian Town, Fuqing City

Lin Zhong, Secretary

People's Congress of Longtian Township

Chen Guoping, Secretary

He Wenchang, Chief of village

This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum.

Canadian Embassy, Beijing. n.d. Report by Political Counsellor. "Heaven is High and the Emperor Far Away: Report from the Fuzhou Metropolitan Counties of Lianjiang, Mawei, Fuqing, and Changle."

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at http://www.irb-cisr.gc.ca/en/. Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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