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Guo v. Sessions

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

July 30, 2018

Zhihui Guo, Petitioner,
v.
Jefferson B. Sessions III, Attorney General, Respondent.

          Argued and Submitted April 10, 2018 Pasadena, California

          On Petition for Review of an Order of the Board of Immigration Appeals Agency No. A201-200-204

         COUNSEL

          Albert S. Chow (argued), Lin & Chow, Monterey Park, California, for Petitioner.

          John Frederick Stanton (argued) and Sergio Sarkany, Trial Attorneys; Kiley Kane, Senior Litigation Counsel; Office of Immigration Litigation, Civil Division, United States Department of Justice, Washington, D.C.; for Respondent.

          Before: Danny J. Boggs, [*] Jay S. Bybee, and Paul J. Watford, Circuit Judges.

          SUMMARY[**]

         Immigration

         The panel granted a petition for review as to the Board of Immigration Appeals' denial of Zhihui Guo's applications for asylum and withholding of removal, and denied the petition as to protection under the Convention against Torture.

         Police arrested Guo for attending a Christian "home church," beat him with a baton and detained him for two days, forbade him from attending his home church, and required him to report to the police weekly to verify his compliance.

         The panel held that this evidence compelled the conclusion that Guo suffered past persecution. The panel explained that in addition to the physical mistreatment, which caused Guo to seek medical attention, the police effectively prevented Guo from practicing his religion and living a Christian life. The panel remanded Guo's asylum and withholding claims for the Board to apply the rebuttable presumption that Guo will experience further persecution if returned to China.

         The panel held that Guo failed to establish a clear probability of torture.

          OPINION

          BYBEE, Circuit Judge:

         Petitioner Zhihui Guo is a Chinese citizen who entered the United States in 2010 on a student visa and stayed beyond its duration. He seeks review of the Board of Immigration Appeals' ("BIA") denial of his claims for asylum, withholding of removal, and relief under the Convention Against Torture ("CAT"). In mid-2010, Chinese police arrested Petitioner[1] for attending a Christian "home church," eventually beating him with a baton and detaining him for two days. Under the terms of his release, Petitioner could never again attend his home church and was required to report to the police weekly to verify his compliance.

         The BIA concluded that these oppressive conditions did not rise to the level of religious persecution, portraying the harm Petitioner suffered as "a single, isolated encounter with the authorities." We are compelled to disagree. By forbidding Petitioner from attending his home church, the Chinese police prevented him from practicing his faith and did so through coercive means. The harm Petitioner suffered was therefore ongoing and, under our asylum precedent, compelled a finding of past persecution. We therefore grant the petition for review and remand to the BIA in order for it to apply the rebuttable presumption that Petitioner will experience further persecution if returned to China.

         I. FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS BELOW

         Petitioner was born in 1990 in Putian, a city in China's Fujian Province. He and his mother began attending a local Christian home church in September 2009, after a neighbor began sharing her beliefs with them. The congregation was comprised of about twenty members, who would meet at the lead member's home. Petitioner and his mother attended Sunday services every week, where the congregation would sing hymns, share testimonies, and pray together.

         In May 2010, five police officers entered one of these services and stated that they had received reports that the congregation was conducting illegal activities. The police confiscated the Bibles, hymn books, and religious CDs and then drove the entire group to a police station. After the group was collectively processed for several hours, the police took Petitioner to an individual interrogation room.

         Two police officers then asked Petitioner why he was engaging in "anti-government" activity. He responded that his group was a church and that they were not anti-government. An officer then slapped Petitioner twice in the face. He protested this treatment, telling the officer it was illegal. The officer then took out his baton and struck Petitioner eight or nine times on his arms, thighs, and back for one to two minutes. Afterwards, Petitioner could not stand by himself, and the officers brought him to a cell, where he remained for the next two days.

         Petitioner's father eventually arrived at the station to bail him out, paying a 3000 RMB bond or fine. The police also required Petitioner to sign a "letter of guarantee," which informed him that he was not allowed to attend home church, that he was required to report to the police station once a ...


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