Submitted January 13, 2014.
Petition for Review of an Order of the Board of Immigration Appeals.
For Yu An Li, Petitioner: Timothy E. Wichmer, WICHMER & GRONECK, Saint Louis, MO.
For Eric H. Holder, Jr., Respondent: Karen Yolanda Drummond, Carl H. McIntyre, Joseph Anthony O'Connell, Christina Bechak Parascandola, Trial Attorney, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Civil Division, Office of Immigration Litigation, Washington, DC.
Before WOLLMAN and SHEPHERD, Circuit Judges, and WEBBER, District Judge.
WEBBER, District Judge.
Mr. Li is a native and citizen of China. He entered the United States on February 26, 2009, as a non-immigrant visitor, with authorization to remain in the United States for a temporary period not to exceed May 25, 2009. Mr. Li remained in the United States beyond May 25, 2009, without authorization from immigration officials.
On May 26, 2009, Mr. Li filed an Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. See 8 U.S.C. § § 1231(b)(3),
1258(a); 8 C.F.R. § § 1208.16-.18. In his Application, Mr. Li claimed to have suffered past persecution in China on account of his Christian faith. Mr. Li stated he was four years old when his father was arrested and sentenced to a ten-year term of imprisonment for rebelling against China's Cultural Revolution. Mr. Li alleged his friends subsequently " brought [him] to Christianity and [he] believed in God." He claimed he developed a successful real estate business, and because he " was doing better than expected[, he] felt [like] giving back to the society and people of faith." He stated he bought Bibles and hymn books from a client in Hong Kong, and distributed them to associates in his company. Mr. Li asserted one of these associates turned him in to the Chinese government, which then became watchful and suspicious of Mr. Li. Mr. Li further alleged, on October 5, 2008, the police learned he was conducting Christian gatherings in his home, broke into his house, confiscated his Bibles and hymn books, and arrested him for distributing Christian books and materials. Mr. Li claimed the police beat him several times during questioning to get him to reveal the source of the books, but the officers later released him when his family and friends posted bond.
On February 10, 2010, Asylum Officer Laurie Kuriakose interviewed Mr. Li regarding his Application. Mr. Li used his own interpreter at the interview, but Officer Kuriakose also arranged for a telephonic interpreter to monitor the interview and ensure Mr. Li's interpreter was interpreting correctly. In response to questioning, Mr. Li stated he began believing in God in 1999, when a neighbor took him to an official Government church. After this visit, however, Mr. Li only attended a " home"  church. He claimed he attended this home church once or twice monthly for five years, beginning in November 1999, and the church gatherings consisted of ten people, at most. Mr. Li was unable to provide Officer Kuriakose names of the people who attended his church, and he told her he knew the names of only two or three of the people who attended the church, because the members referred to each other only as " Brother," or " Sister." He alleged, beginning in 2005, he hosted the gatherings at his home every five-to-ten days, and he was " in charge" and " ran the meetings." Mr. Li stated he played audio tapes on Christian topics at these meetings, and the group sang hymns, read the Bible, prayed, and ate together. He said a typical service lasted approximately one hour.
Mr. Li also told Officer Kuriakose that, in May 2008, a friend in Hong Kong sent him ten boxes of Bibles, some of which he distributed to his employees. He claimed when the Chinese police came to his house on October 5, 2008, they were undercover, arriving dressed as utility company employees, and asking for payment of his water bill. Mr. Li said they arrested him, but did not arrest the other church members who were at his house, because he told the police the others were only at his home to eat a meal with him, and had nothing to do with the Bibles he had been distributing. Mr. Li claimed he was charged with the illegal transport of religious documents and illegally spreading the Christian religion. He stated ...