US to offer temporary 'safe haven' to Hong Kong residents

Michael Martina, Reuters

Posted at Aug 05 2021 08:17 PM

WASHINGTON - The United States on Thursday plans to offer a temporary "safe haven" to thousands of Hong Kong residents, a senior administration official told Reuters, allowing them to extend their stay in the country in response to Beijing's crackdown on democracy in the Chinese territory.

President Joe Biden is expected to sign a memorandum directing the State and Homeland Security departments to grant Hong Kong residents in the United States an 18-month "deferral of removal," the official said.

The vast majority of Hong Kong residents in the United States are expected to be eligible, but there will be some legal conditions, the person said, calling it a "temporary safe haven."

"The PRC continues to wield the national security law to deny basic rights and freedoms, to assault Hong Kong's autonomy, to undermine the remaining democratic processes in Hong Kong," the source said on condition of anonymity, using the official acronym for China.

"We will continue to take steps to support the people of Hong Kong given this ongoing repression," the official said.

The measure is the latest in a series of actions Biden has taken to address what his White House says is the erosion of rule of law in the former British colony, which returned to Beijing's control in 1997.

The US government in July applied more sanctions on Chinese officials in Hong Kong, and issued an updated business advisory warning companies of risks of operating under the national security law, which China implemented last year to criminalize what it considers subversion, secessionism, terrorism or collusion with foreign forces.

Critics say the law facilitates a crackdown on pro-democracy activists and a free press in the territory, which Beijing had agreed to allow to operate under considerable political autonomy for 50 years after it regained control.

China retaliated against the US actions last month with its own sanctions on US individuals, including former US commerce secretary Wilbur Ross.

US lawmakers have sought legislation that would make it easier for people from Hong Kong fearing persecution after joining protests against China to obtain US refugee status, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said the United States should accept people fleeing the Hong Kong crackdown. 

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