5 Reasons Why China Isn’t Accepting Syrian Refugees

Beginning in the early spring of 2011, the Syrian Civil War which is a multi-sided armed conflict with international interventions has caused one of the biggest refugee crisis. As a result, approximate 5 millions of Syrian people left their country seeking for better security in other countries and Europe. The rush of refugees into Europe also lead to various social problems including xenophobia, crimes, nativism and etc.

China is currently the world’s second largest economy and most populous country, but based on the digits released by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, China had only accepted 26 asylum seekers and 9 refugees by the end of 2015. Why China is not accepting more Syrian refugees? Here are the reasons:-

Lack of national institutions to manage refugee inflow

Despite the fact that China signed the United Nations’ Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees in 1982 and is obliged to grant asylum to refugees. China has not set up a dedicated institution for accepting or managing refugee influx which is on a large-scale. For a long history, China did not have laws in relate to accepting refugees. Only until July 2012, China passed a new Exit-Entry Administration Law to allow refugee application and provide them with legal status and permission to stay in China (refworld.org 2013).

Chinese Green Card is “the hardest one to get in the world”

Normally, foreigners who want to apply for permanent resident in China or the Chinese Green Cards (D-Visa) are required to investing more than $500,000 in China or have a high-level professional title (assistant general managers or factory directors). As for refugee applications, they can only apply Green Card if they have direct relatives currently living in China (china.org.cn 2015). Though there is news from time to time suggesting that China is considering easing its Green Card system, the fact is that it is still difficult for foreigners including refugees to pursue Green Cards.

Foreign policy of non-interference in other countries’ domestic affairs

The non-interference foreign policy adopted by China can be traced back to the so-called “Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence” (see listed below) announced in the 1950s, the policy requires China to refrain from intervening in the internal affairs of other countries. China has long opposed any intervention in Syria, several years ago Beijing joined Russia in vetoing two United Nations resolutions aimed at pressuring Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Therefore, China is very unlikely to host Syrian refugees as it may be considered as some kind of intervention in Syria’s internal affairs in China.

Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence:

1. Mutual respect for each other’s sovereignty and territorial integrity;
2. Mutual non-aggression;
3. Non-interference in each other’s internal affairs;
4. Equality and mutual benefit; &
5. Peaceful co-existence. (fmprc.gov.cn 2016)

Stringent population control policies

China has adopted strict population control policies for more than 40 years. In 1971, China instituted its first national family planning program in order to control a rapid growing population, since then population targets have been incorporated into China’s five-year plans and the annual plans. Actually, China only replaced its 35-year long one-child policy with the two-child policy (to allow one couple of parents to have up to two children). This shows that China may not have strong incentives to host refugees which will bring uncertainties to its population planning.

Fear of possible religious conflicts

Region is also a major concern in China when it comes to hosting refugees. China is a multi-confessional country. The Chinese people practice Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Catholicism, Protestantism and Confucianism. But religious conflicts and unrest also happen in China, especially in the Uyghur Muslim community. In fact, China’s long-running Uyghur insurgency has killed about 1,000 people. Beijing has real worries that Uyghurs have connections with radicalized Muslims outside of China. For this reason, China may be reluctant to accept refugees from Syria, a country in which Islam is the dominating religion.

syria to china map

List of reference

china.org.cn 2015. Who Can Apply for a Green Card in China? accessed on 18th Mar 2016 [online] available: http://www.china.org.cn/english/LivinginChina/185212.htm

fmprc.gov.cn 2016. China’s Initiation of the Five Principles of Peaceful Co-Existence, accessed on 18th Mar 2016 [online] available: http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/mfa_eng/ziliao_665539/3602_665543/3604_665547/t18053.shtml

refworld.org 2013 UNHCR submission on China UPR 17th session – Refworld, accessed on 18th Mar 2016 [online] available: www.refworld.org/pdfid/5135b0cb2.pdf

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