WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden granted temporary refuge Thursday to folks from Hong Kong amid the Chinese authorities’s effort to crush the pro-democracy motion and tighten its management on a metropolis as soon as identified for its freedom.
Biden signed a memorandum permitting folks from Hong Kong at present residing within the United States to reside and work within the nation for 18 months, a transfer more likely to additional inflame the already tense relations between Washington and Beijing.
The resolution to offer a temporary protected haven is available in response to Hong Kong’s sweeping new nationwide safety legislation and different measures that undercut the rights promised when the previous British colony was handed again to China in 1997. It additionally comes as China and the United States are at odds over a variety of international coverage and commerce points.
“Given the politically motivated arrests and trials, the silencing of the media and the diminishing space for elections and democratic opposition, we will continue to take steps in support of people in Hong Kong,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki mentioned.
The Chinese authorities has sought to stifle opposition following protests in Hong Kong in 2019 towards a proposed legislation permitting extraditions to mainland China. Under the brand new nationwide safety legislation, which took impact in June, police have arrested no less than 100 opposition politicians, activists and demonstrators.
Changes have additionally been made to Hong Kong’s election legal guidelines to scale back the variety of straight elected lawmakers and provides a largely pro-Beijing committee the leeway to appoint lawmakers aligned with the mainland authorities.
“Despite widespread demonstrations, which brought millions together to call for greater freedom, Hong Kong’s promise of democracy has dimmed,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken mentioned because the measure granting protected haven was introduced.
China bristles on the criticism, saying it’s merely restoring order to town and instituting nationwide safety protections present in different international locations. It has denounced US sanctions on Hong Kong officers as interference in its home affairs.
Pro-democracy activists in exile pleaded with Congress final month to go laws to offer each temporary refuge and everlasting refugee standing within the US after Hong Kong police confirmed that they had an inventory of greater than 50 individuals who could be arrested in the event that they tried to depart.
“With nearly every prominent pro-democracy voice in Hong Kong in jail, awaiting trial, or overseas in exile, it is clear that there is an increased need for the United States to do more, particularly now that Beijing is closing travel routes with the suspension of direct flights between Hong Kong and the UK,” they wrote in a letter to members.
There are a number of thousand folks from Hong Kong within the United States who could be eligible to stay and keep away from being deported beneath what’s formally generally known as deferred enforced departure, in accordance with the Department of Homeland Security.
Psaki didn’t rule out extending refuge past 18 months when requested in regards to the chance at a White House briefing. “Obviously, our hope and our objective and our work on the international forum is to change the behavior that is happening and the oppression that we’re seeing of the people in Hong Kong,” she instructed reporters.
Under US legislation, the president is ready to grant deferred enforced departure as a part of constitutional energy to conduct international relations. Former President Donald Trump granted it for Venezuelans simply earlier than he left workplace.
Members of Congress have for months known as for granting temporary protected standing to folks from Hong Kong, prompting criticism from immigration opponents that it might enable folks to remain who aren’t opponents of the Chinese authorities. There can be broader criticism that earlier recipients of temporary standing have obtained quasi-permanent authorized residency after repeated extensions.
The deferred departure approved by the Biden administration for folks from Hong Kong exempts them from deportation besides in sure circumstances, together with individuals who voluntarily return to town, haven’t repeatedly resided within the US or have dedicated a felony or two or extra misdemeanors whereas within the nation.