Biden offering temporary 'safe haven' to Hong Kong residents
President Biden on Thursday deferred departure for Hong Kong residents present in the United States, offering them a “safe haven” amid criticism against the Chinese government for cracking down on civil liberties in the region.
“The United States supports the human rights and fundamental freedoms of the residents of Hong Kong. Recognizing the significant erosion of those rights and freedoms in Hong Kong by the People's Republic of China (PRC), I am directing the deferral of removal of certain Hong Kong residents who are present in the United States,” the president said in a statement.
The move allows Hong Kong residents who have resided in the U.S. to extend their stay by at least 18 months and may seek employment authorization.
Biden cited Beijing’s security crackdown on the territory through passage in June 2020 of its National Security Law, a measure criticized by the international community as criminalizing fundamental rights of expression and freedom of speech through vague charges of secession, sedition, terrorism and collusion with a foreign country or external elements.
The president criticized Hong Kong police for carrying out “a campaign of politically motivated arrests” that included at least 100 opposition politicians, activists and protesters on charges under the National Security Law. Biden further cited that 10,000 individuals have been arrested on charges related to antigovernment protests.
“Over the last year, the PRC has continued its assault on Hong Kong's autonomy, undermining its remaining democratic processes and institutions, imposing limits on academic freedom, and cracking down on freedom of the press,” the president said.
Homeland Security Security Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement that the decision to defer departure for Hong Kong residents in the U.S. is to “offer safety and protection to these individuals based on the ongoing assault on democracy, and rights and freedoms in Hong Kong by the People’s Republic of China.”
Senator Ben Sasse (R-Nebraska), a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, welcomed the move by the Biden administration but urged offering full asylum to those from Hong Kong who fear retaliation from Beijing.
“Today’s move is a solid step, but we need to go further. We need to offer full asylum to Hong Kongers who flee Chairman Xi’s brutal oppression," Sasse said in a statement. "America needs to stand firmly behind victims of communism and show the world that we will always stand for freedom across the globe.”
The move is likely to elicit a strong response from the Chinese government, which has rejected criticism from the international community over its crackdown in Hong Kong as interfering in the internal affairs of China, and adds to a robust list of grievances between Washington and Beijing.
Updated at 1:44 p.m.