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Venture finally golden: First of Chinese refugees released

It had been a long time coming but Li Dao Yu, a woman who fled the People’s Republic of China after being forced to undergo abortion, was finally released from a US prison 8 October following an asylum hearing.

On 6 June 1993 she leaped from a ship called the Golden Venture into New York harbor, the last act in her dramatic escape from China.1 But once ashore she and her fellow passengers discovered that the Clinton administration, unlike its predecessors, was not prepared to give refuge to victims of China’s one-child policy.

In violation of US policy, Li and 147 of her fellow passengers were imprisoned by the Immigration and Naturalization Service. As the Clinton administration pushed forward with deportation proceedings, other groups, such as People of the Golden Vision, sought permission for them to settle in the US or some third country. The battle thus joined lasted over three years, while the refugees languished in jail.

The tide of the battle shifted when Congressman Chris Smith, Chairman of the House Subcommittee on International Operations and Human Rights, began pushing for legislation offering asylum to those fleeing forced abortion or sterilization.

Overcoming stiff Administration opposition, the US Congress in late September passed the Smith amendment, which offers asylum to up to 1,000 refugees per year who are fleeing forced abortion and sterilization.

Although some refugees are still incarcerated pending review of their cases, activists expect that they, too, will soon be released.


1 David Morrison, “Over two years later, Chinese venture is anything but golden,” Population Research Institute Review, November/December 1995, 1.

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