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Why do the Chinese immigrate illegally?
Liu Shui, Special to The Epoch Times
3/1/2004

GUANGDONG, China - Recently, a series of tragedies involving illegal Chinese immigrants has shocked the world. Why did the victims spend astronomical sums of money to smuggle themselves overseas while the Chinese economy is supposedly steaming ahead? Except for a few cases of forced prostitution, most of them were adults and had beautiful dreams for the future. The waves of illegal Chinese immigrants moving overseas have exposed the dark side of the countries’ political system. The following are only a few prominent cases.

On February 7 of this year, seven of the 13 Urumqi acrobatic troupe performers defected in Ottawa after performing in a Lunar New Year celebration at the invitation of the local Uighur community. The seven later issued a statement explaining that the decision to seek asylum was entirely personal and had nothing to do with their hosts. The Canadian government confirmed the authenticity of the statement. The Chinese government claimed that the defectors are all national “Level 2” performers and that overseas organizations lured and manipulated the asylum seekers.

Strictly speaking, this is not a case of illegal immigration but one of legal application for asylum, even though the details are still unknown. According the Federal Refugee Commission in Canada, 38,900 cases of asylum application were received, with Chinese and Pakistanis leading the list, followed by Mexicans and Columbians. The number does not include illegal immigrants.

On February 5, 19 Chinese cockle (a kind of shellfish) pickers died after becoming trapped by rising tides in Lancashire England's Morecambe Bay; 14 others were rescued. One of those rescued was a student with legal documents on her person. According to overseas media, the cockle pickers are illegal immigrants from Fujian controlled by human trafficking rings. However, in an interview with the Phoenix Satellite TV, the Chinese consulate general in Manchester said that the victims had not been identified yet and police were still investigating whether they came from China.

On August 26, human traffickers tried to smuggle 26 Chinese prostitutes into Taiwan. When the Taiwanese Maritime Police began chasing their boat, the ringleaders pushed the prostitutes overboard to destroy the evidence. Six drowned, three are missing, and two were injured.

On March 11, Nanjing authorities started the trial of the largest human trafficking ring ever broken by Chinese police. The ring consisted of over 150 members and had organized 38 attempts to smuggle a total of over 700 Chinese into Japan from 19 ports in 10 coastal provinces and metropolitan areas since 1998. Among those people the ring smuggled, over 400 people reached Japan.

According to an INS estimate, about 30,000 Chinese a year enter the United States illegally. Most of the illegal immigrants come from the greater Fuzhou area. The fee for smuggling one person could be as high as $30,000.

Since ancient times, Chinese have gone abroad to make their living, mostly as ill-paid laborers, because of poverty and wars at home. The history of Chinese immigrants around the world is a sad story and is not something to be proud of. From the Communist takeoverin 1949 until 1980, there have been several large-scale refugee waves, including educated youth who escaped to Burma, Thailand, and Hong Kong in the 1960s and 1970s, as well as coastal residents from Guangdong flooding into Hong Kong. “Chinese Educated Youth Tribes” and Hong Kong media reported those refugee waves in detail.

Jin Yong’s Hong Kong-based Mingpao newspaper actually gained immediate success by reporting about the waves of Chinese refugees. After the 1980s, economic reforms in China brought improvements to people’s living standards. In the new millennium, the government has claimed that the entire Chinese society is now well-to-do. Why, then, do so many people still pay huge sums and risk their lives to emigrate illegally? There are a few victims who were swindled or kidnapped by human traffickers. These true victims are likely to cooperate with police by telling them their true identity and their place of destination. After finding they’d been tricked, you know they would be trying hard to go to the authorities so that they can go back home. Those rescued cockle pickers, however, refused to identify themselves. The police learned they were from China only after their employers were arrested. The Chinese government, however, continued to deny any responsibility.

Except for a few who try to make a quick buck overseas, many people went abroad to search for freedom because China has hurt them too badly. The Phoenix Satellite TV has a series called "Chinatown." The program interviewed a Chinese association in the United States on the eve of Wen Jiabao’s visit. The general secretary of the association was in his 40's and was from Fujian. The general secretary was discussing the size of the crowd, location, slogans, and songs used to welcome the Chinese premier. According to overseas media, the Chinese embassies routinely hire local Chinese and students to welcome Chinese leaders, at a few dozen dollars per head.

The father of the general secretary emigrated to the United States and has not return to China for more than 30 years. After the Cultural Revolution, his mother, wife and children and he went to the United States to join his father. Now he is a successful businessman, but told reporters in tears that he would never go back to China because he could not forget the discrimination and starvation his family had suffered. However, he is proud of being a Chinese in the United States.

This man from Fujian has courage and spoke frankly for a number of illegal immigrants. Even though he himself is not an illegal immigrant, he left his homeland to seek freedom. They still love China, which had given them nothing but suffering. They have supported the Chinese government, which never cared for them and is still hurting the Chinese people.

Large-scale migrations across borders are mostly due to poverty, wars, and persecution. Most of the hundreds of thousands of Chinese students going overseas have refused to return. Apart from a few dissidents barred from entering China, the majority of students are in exile of their own accord. It is not surprising that talent flows into developed countries. China claims to have the hottest economy in the world today, yet Chinese students refuse to return and illegal immigrants risk their money and lives to leave. Wealth is only one of the factors. I am afraid the culprit is the deterioration of rule of law, human rights and living conditions.

The Chinese regime has lived off of one-sided propaganda, media censorship, and by filtering news from overseas. Its official policy is to keep people in the dark and cover up anything unfavorable. People are not able to learn the true situation, let alone the whole truth of many different issues. If citizens cast their votes by hand in a democracy, illegal emigrants are casting their vote by foot in dictatorships. The lucky ones among illegal emigrants are protected by international laws once they are classified as refugees. Illegal Chinese immigrants around the world are human evidence of a society plagued by growing gaps between the rich and the poor, severe unemployment, and trampled peasants at the bottom of the heap.

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