Meine Merkliste

Refuge and Asylum

China Introduction Historical Development Current Migration Development Migration Policies The Immigrant Population Citizenship Integration Refuge and Asylum Irregular Migration Current Developments References

Refuge and Asylum

Lan Diao Maren Opitz

/ 2 Minuten zu lesen

China has ratified the Geneva Convention on Refugees, however there is no asylum law and there are no corresponding state institutions. The majority of asylum seekers and refugees are ethnic Chinese from Vietnam. But there is also a small number of refugees coming from Somalia, Iraq, Pakistan and North Korea.

Accomodation for refugees in southern China. Accommodation for refugees is poor due to a lack of national institutions und legal provisions. (© picture-alliance/dpa)

Legal Framework

The People’s Republic of China ratified both the 1951 Geneva Convention on Refugees and its complement, the 1967 Protocol relating to the status of refugees, though first relatively late in 1982. The right to asylum on the grounds of political persecution is set in the Chinese constitution. In practice, however, the implementation up to this point has been made difficult due to the lack of detailed provisions. Provisions for subsidiary and humanitarian protection do not exist. There is neither a national asylum law nor any corresponding state institutions. Refugees and asylum seekers in China are thus dependent on the support of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) which has had an office in Beijing since 1980 and acts as a spokesperson for refugees and asylum seekers to the Chinese government.

Refugee Flow

The number of refugees in China is growing annually by about 0.1 percent. In the middle of 2013, 301,068 recognized refugees and 289 asylum seekers lived in the country. The majority of refugees were Vietnamese citizens. After the Sino-Vietnam War of 1979, 300,000 ethnic Chinese, the majority of whom had Vietnamese citizenship, were repatriated back to China and recognized there as refugees. They are on equal terms with Chinese citizens.

Every year 100 to 150 people submit an asylum application to UNHCR in Beijing. Most people come from Somalia, Iraq and Pakistan. A readmission agreement made between China and North Korea caused quite an international sensation. In it China agreed to return North Korean asylum seekers back to North Korea, categorizing them as “economic migrants“ that illegally enter China. North Korean asylum seekers who are married to a Chinese citizen and have children obtain a residence permit in some villages. The villages that have implemented these regulations are mainly located, however, in China’s interior and western parts, less so in the northeast near the North Korean border. This example also shows how differently actors at the local level use their room for maneuver in implementing national standards.


The reform of the Entry Law for Aliens in July, 2013 also affected the regulation of entry for refugees. Asylum seekers will, for instance, receive an identity card which allows them to reside legally in China until a decision on their asylum application is made. The UNHCR hopes that this reform represents a first step in the process of creating a national asylum law.

This text is part of the Interner Link: country profile China.



  1. According to Guofu Liu, Prof. of Law and a migration expert, the Department of Security has taken over the task of deciding on asylum applications. Furthermore, the national English-language newspaper China Daily reported on a working group in the Ministry for Civil Affairs that addresses the question of how refugees are to be dealt with in the future (Zhao 2012).

  2. Liu (2011), pp. 89 f., 91-95, UNHCR (2013a), p. 58, United Nations (2014), Zhao (2012), Human Rights Liaison Unit (2013), pp. 2.


Dieser Text ist unter der Creative Commons Lizenz "CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 DE - Namensnennung - Nicht-kommerziell - Keine Bearbeitung 3.0 Deutschland" veröffentlicht. Autoren/-innen: Lan Diao, Maren Opitz für

Sie dürfen den Text unter Nennung der Lizenz CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 DE und der Autoren/-innen teilen.
Urheberrechtliche Angaben zu Bildern / Grafiken / Videos finden sich direkt bei den Abbildungen.

Weitere Inhalte

Lan Diao, Doctor of Educational Sciences in foreign language didactics with a focus on Chinese didactics, originally comes from Beijing and is currently a teacher for Chinese and German at a secondary school in Hamburg.

Maren Opitz has a master’s degree in International Migration and Intercultural Relations from the University of Osnabrück and is currently working for the German Youth for Understanding Committee in Hamburg. After completing her bachelor studies in Sinology, Civil Law and Language Acquisition Research she spent two years in China where she worked inter alia in the office of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation in Shanghai.