Refugees or Border Residents from Myanmar? The Status of Displaced Ethnic Kachins and Kokangs in Yunnan Province, China
International Journal of Refugee Law, Vol 29, No 3, 1-22, 2017, DOI 10.1093/ijrl/eex031
22 Pages Posted: 20 Sep 2017 Last revised: 16 Oct 2017
Date Written: June 1, 2017
Since 2009, more than 100,000 ethnic Kachins and Kokangs have crossed into Yunnan Province, China, to escape armed conflict in Kachin State and Shan State, Myanmar. China insists that they are ‘border residents’, not refugees. This article considers the legal status of these displaced ethnic Kachins and Kokangs in both international law and Chinese law and evaluates China’s treatment of them. It argues that they merit refugee status under the Refugee Convention and Protocol and that many of them also qualify as border residents under the 1997 bilateral border management treaty between China and Myanmar and the 1990 Yunnan provincial rules governing border residents from Myanmar. It suggests that refugee status and border resident status are not mutually exclusive and that those who simultaneously qualify for both should be entitled to the rights attached to each status. Therefore, China’s forced repatriation of displaced Kachins and restrictions on both groups’ freedom of movement in China amount to violation of its obligations under the Refugee Convention and Protocol.
Keywords: Refugee, China, Myanmar, Kachin, Kokang, Yunnan
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