Providing safe haven status to Hong Kong citizens right thing to do
Bravo to the Biden Administration, which on Thursday extended temporary safe haven status for another two years to Hong Kong citizens currently in the U.S. The decision will protect thousands of residents of the once autonomous city where dissent and support for democracy have been criminalized.
The U.S. first offered safety to Hong Kongers in August 2021, with some 5,600 who were already here eligible. President Biden said on Thursday that Beijing “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.”
He said “at least 150 opposition politicians, activists, and protesters” have been arrested under the national-security law that carries a maximum sentence of life in prison, and more than 10,000 others have been arrested “in connection with anti-government protests.”
Huen Lam, a spokesperson for the Hong Kong Democracy Council, a Washington, D.C., nonprofit, is among those at risk. “I have participated in a lot of political work here in the U.S., all of which are considered as breaking the National Security Law,” she told us in an email, so “if I were to go back to Hong Kong now, I would be arrested and jailed.”
Without an extension of the safe-haven order, Hong Kong citizens would have had to seek another form of immigration protection to remain in the U.S. But it would have been difficult for many former pro-democracy protesters to gather sufficient evidence to bolster an asylum claim.
Participants in the 2019 democracy protests often covered their faces to hide from the Communist Party’s facial-recognition technology, but that now makes it hard to establish their role in the demonstrations. After Beijing imposed the national-security law, many Hong Kong residents deleted social-media posts and other evidence of pro-democracy activism.
Congress can help by providing a permanent refuge for Hong Kong citizens who are already in the U.S. America is enriched by those who know what it’s like to risk everything for freedom and the rule of law.
— Wall Street Journal