politico – Hong Kong pro-democracy activists plead with Congress for refugee status

These protections echo those granted by then-US President George HW Bush in an executive order issued in 1990 after the Tiananmen Massacre, which allowed Chinese students in the United States to stay in the country if they feared. to be persecuted by the state in China. Congress followed through on the decree with China’s 1992 Student Protection Act. The non-governmental refugee rights organization Refugee Council USA urged then Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in July 2020 “to find ways to help those affected by the situation in Hong Kong.” And in particular to use the US refugee admission program to ensure that “Hong Kong refugees are granted asylum if they flee to the United States.”

Letter argues Hong Kong citizens deserve U.S. legislative protection due to the accelerating erosion of human rights protections and the territory’s rule of law: cites official prohibitions on freedom expression and association, mass arrests of pro-democracy activists as part of Hong Kong’s draconian new national security. Law and intensification of official attacks on media freedom.

The letter calls on Congress to act quickly, warning that the Hong Kong government is “closing travel routes” for citizens fearing government retaliation for a peaceful protest. Hong Kong’s restrictive new immigration law comes into effect on August 1, which could impose “exit bans” on critics of the government. Hong Kong police already have a “wanted list” of individuals who may be arrested if they attempt to leave the territory.

The proposed legislative protections outlined in the letter mirror those of the Hong Kong Safe Harbor Act 2021 co-sponsored by Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) And Robert Menendez (DN.J.) in February 2021. Rubio dedicated this initiative to “those Hong Kongers who have courageously stood up to defend the city they love against the CCP [Chinese Communist Party’s] persecution and open our doors to them.

Another co-sponsor of the bill, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), reiterated his support for the bill in an email message to POLITICO, saying it will allow Hong Kong citizens to apply for status as American refugee “through the US Consulate in Hong Kong and other safe ports in the region. The bill has been read twice and referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

President Joe Biden has not indicated his position on the bill and its potentially provocative impact on the strained bilateral relationship between the United States and China. He has yet to formally respond to a June 30 letter from the bicameral foreign affairs directorate – including Representative Ami Bera (D-Calif.), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Asia, and Senator Ed Markey (D-Mass.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asia – on steps, if any, taken by the administration “to help those seeking to leave Hong Kong for fear of reprisals or persecution for their pro-democracy activities “.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressed vague support for some form of refugee protection for Hong Kong citizens, telling CNBC in February 2021 that while Hong Kong citizens are “victims of repression by Chinese authorities, we should do something to give them refuge.

In July 2020, the UK responded to concerns over the situation in Hong Kong by offering resettlement and a citizenship pathway to 350,000 Hong Kong citizens who held British (overseas) passports ) before the UK surrendered its former colony to China in 1997..

Johnny Patterson, policy director at pro-democracy nonprofit Hong Kong Watch, told POLITICO that US legislation to grant refugee status to fearful Hong Kong citizens may provide a “lifeline. »To young Hong Kong people who are not eligible for this program.

“When tanks invaded Tiananmen Square in 1989, the United States became a vital sanctuary for young people. [Chinese] Democrats, ”Patterson said. “Now is the time to offer the same hand of welcome to the Hong Kongers. “

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