US President Joe Biden offered Thursday temporary asylum to those Hong Kong citizens who are currently in the country and who fear to return for the “repression” of China.
Biden said that this protection recognizes “significant erosion” of rights and freedoms in the former British colony by the Chinese government.
“By unilaterally imposing on Hong Kong the Law of the People’s Republic of China on Safeguarding National Security in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, the People’s Republic of China has undermined the enjoyment of rights and freedoms in Hong Kong, including those protected by the Basic Law and the Sino-British Joint Declaration, “it said in a memorandum.
Hong Kong police repress a protest in the former British colony. Photo: AFP
Hong Kong was restored by London to Beijing in 1997 within the framework of an agreement that sought to guarantee in the territory, for 50 years, freedoms unknown in the rest of China.
Biden cited the “arrests for political reasons” of more than 100 opposition leaders, activists and protesters on charges under the national security law, which include alleged secession, subversion and terrorist activities.
More than 10,000 people have been detained in connection with anti-government protests, he said.
Biden’s decision allows Hong Kong residents currently in the United States to legally reside and work for 18 months.
“This move demonstrates President Biden’s strong support for the people of Hong Kong in the face of the ongoing crackdown by the People’s Republic of China, and makes it clear that we will not stand idly by while the People’s Republic of China breaks its promises to Hong Kong and the international community, “said White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki.
Protests in Hong Kong due to the influence of China have intensified. Photo: EFE
Biden announced that as of Thursday Hong Kong citizens in the United States will be granted the benefit of Deferred Enforced Departure (DED).
This is similar to Temporary Protected Status (TPS), which is granted to certain foreigners in the United States who cannot return to their countries due to natural disasters or political upheaval.
TPS is granted to countries by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), while DED can be declared by the president, according to a US government website.
Neither statute is permanent, but can be renewed regularly.
A controversial law under the magnifying glass
Hong Kong’s National Security Act, which came into effect on June 30, 2020 following the massive pro-democracy protests in 2019, gives Beijing more control over the judiciary semiautonomous territory and criminalizes many types of political activities.
Critics say it is being used to undermine the “one country, two systems” scheme for city government put in place when Britain returned its former colony to China.
Arrests of opposition politicians have stifled freedom of expression and left activists in fear of arrest or other punishment, including those abroad.
In June, Hong Kong police raided the offices of the Apple Daily newspaper, shutting it down and arresting key executives.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Thursday that under the national security law “Hong Kong’s promise of democracy has been toned down.”
“The People’s Republic of China has fundamentally altered the foundations of Hong Kong’s institutions and suppressed the freedoms of Hong Kong people,” it said in a statement.
The decision to grant Hong Kong residents a safe haven is likely to further crack the China-American relationship.
Beijing and Washington are faced by controversial land claims from China on Taiwan and the islands in the South China Sea, the US accusations that China regularly steals US intellectual property, and the widespread crackdown on Uighurs and other minorities in China’s western Xinjian region.
China believes that the United States seeks to prevent its metamorphosis into a global power.
The United States must stop viewing China as a “imaginary enemy”Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Xie Feng told US Diplomacy No. 2 Wendy Sherman on a visit to Tianjin (north) in late July.
“The hope may be that by demonizing China, the United States will be able to somehow … blame China for its own structural problems,” Xie told Sherman, according to a statement from his ministry.