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Biden offers temporary 'safe haven' to Hong Kong residents amid tensions with China

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
US President Joe Biden delivers remarks at the White House in Washington, August 3, 2021.(Photo by Reuters))

US President Joe Biden has offered a temporary "safe haven" to Hong Kong residents in the United States, accusing the Chinese government of cracking down on civil liberties in the Chinese territory.

“The United States supports the human rights and fundamental freedoms of the residents of Hong Kong. Recognizing the significant erosion of those rights and freedoms in Hong Kong by the People's Republic of China (PRC), I am directing the deferral of removal of certain Hong Kong residents who are present in the United States,” Biden said in a statement on Thursday.

The presidential memorandum directs "the deferral of removal of certain Hong Kong residents who are present in the United States, giving them a temporary safe haven,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement.

The US presidential move allows potentially thousands of people from Hong Kong to extend their stay by at least 18 months and may seek employment authorization.

Biden criticized Beijing’s national security law in Hong Kong which has criminalized acts of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion in the Chinese territory.

The US president accused Hong Kong police of carrying out “a campaign of politically motivated arrests” that included at least 100 opposition politicians, activists and protesters on charges under the National Security Law.

Biden claimed that 10,000 individuals have been arrested on charges related to anti-government protests.

“Over the last year, the PRC [People’s Republic of China] 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,” the president said.

Psaki said Thursday's action "demonstrates President Biden's strong support for people in Hong Kong in the face of ongoing repression by the People's Republic of China (PRC), and makes clear we will not stand idly by as the PRC breaks its promises to Hong Kong and to the international community."

She continued, "Given the politically motivated arrests and trials, the silencing of the media, and the diminishing the space for elections and democratic opposition, we will continue to take steps in support of people in Hong Kong."

The US has imposed sanctions in response to Hong Kong’s new laws. Beijing has warned Washington against interfering with the internal affairs in Hong Kong.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said Chinese and Hong Kong officials have “systematically undermined Hong Kong’s democratic institutions, delayed elections, disqualified elected lawmakers from office, and forced officials to take loyalty oaths to keep their jobs.”

“We will continue to stand up for the rights and freedoms guaranteed to people in Hong Kong by the Sino-British Joint Declaration and the Basic Law,” he added.

In June 2019, unprecedented anti-government protests began in Hong Kong over a proposed extradition bill. It was shelved under pressure from demonstrations later on, but the turbulent protest movement continued into the next several months and became more violent, endangering the lives and property of citizens.

The protesters have been demanding Hong Kong’s full secession since then. Beijing says the United States and Britain have been fanning the flames of unrest in the semi-autonomous hub by supporting the separatist protesters.

Hong Kong returned from British to Chinese rule in 1997.

 

 


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