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Wednesday, March 9, 2005; Page A22

Court Links Right to Asylum To China's Sterilization Policy

Men whose wives were forcibly sterilized under China's coercive population-control policies are entitled to political asylum in the United States, a federal appeals court in San Francisco ruled yesterday.

The groundbreaking ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit could greatly expand the number of people able to stay in the United States on the grounds that they were persecuted by China's population policies.

"Involuntary sterilization irrevocably strips persons of one of the important liberties we possess as human: our reproductive freedom," Judge Stephen Reinhardt wrote for the unanimous three-judge panel.

"Therefore, one who has suffered involuntary sterilization, either directly or because of the sterilization of a spouse, is entitled," without having to prove anything else, to refuge in this country, he wrote.

The plaintiff in the case, Quili Qu, came to the United States in 1997 on a visa for a businessman. In 2001, he applied for asylum. Qu said he and his wife, who is still in China, had married in 1978. They were denied a permit to have a child because Qu's family was thought to be affiliated with "counter revolutionary elements as a result of its elders' support of the pre-Communist regime and adherence to Christian beliefs," the court said.

Qu's wife gave birth in 1979, leaving the baby with her mother. Later, a birth permit was granted. When Chinese officials discovered that the child was 5, not an infant, "the Chinese bureaucrats became enraged," the court said. A neighborhood committee "found Qu's wife, bound her, and took her to a hospital," where she was sterilized.

When Qu sought to stay in the United States, a federal immigration judge said Qu had no valid fear of future persecution because his wife had undergone the operation and "can't be sterilized again."

The appeals court disagreed, describing forced sterilization as a "permanent and continuing act of persecution."

NYC, Coast Guard Faulted In Deadly 2003 Ferry Crash

A federal safety board sharply criticized New York City and the Coast Guard in the 2003 Staten Island ferry crash that killed 11 passengers, saying that tougher medical screening of ferry captains and safer operating procedures are needed.

The National Transportation Safety Board said the city's oversight was partly to blame for the crash but stopped short of saying the Coast Guard's current system directly caused the deadly accident on Oct. 15, 2003.

NTSB Chairman Ellen Engleman Conners called the crash "a wake-up call to all modes of transportation" and said closer review is needed of the effect of certain prescription drugs on transportation workers.

The recommendations for the Coast Guard could greatly expand the amount of work the agency does nationwide to check the health of boat pilots responsible for millions of water-crossing commuters.

Staten Island ferry pilot Richard Smith pleaded guilty to 11 counts of manslaughter, acknowledging he neglected his duties by taking medications that made him lose consciousness at the helm. Several others were charged in connection with the crash.

-- From News Services

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