United States President Joe Biden delivers a speech in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC on July 29, 2021.
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President Joe Biden signed an order on Wednesday blocking the forced deportation of many Hong Kong residents from the United States for 18 months and giving them a “temporary safe haven” from ongoing Chinese repression in the region, the White House said.
The order allows Hong Kong residents whose U.S. visas have expired and who are otherwise legally removable to remain in the United States.
Biden on Wednesday also directed the Department of Homeland Security to legally work in the United States for Hong Kong residents subject to the order.
“With politically motivated arrests and trials, media silence, and the shrinking space for elections and democratic opposition, we will continue to take steps to support the people of Hong Kong,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a written statement.
The order imposing memorandum signed by Biden also states that China has undermined “the enjoyment of rights and freedoms” in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, including those protected by the so-called Basic Law and the Sino-British Joint Declaration.
Since June 2020, when China unilaterally imposed its national security law on Hong Kong, police in the semi-autonomous region have detained at least 100 opposition politicians, activists and protesters on charges under the law, the memo said.
In addition, police arrested more than 10,000 people in connection with protests against the government.
China’s action came in response to the anti-government protests that began in Hong Kong in 2019.
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“There are compelling foreign policy reasons to postpone the forced exit of Hong Kong residents currently in the United States,” the memo said.
“The United States is committed to a foreign policy that combines our democratic values with our foreign policy goals that focus on defending democracy and promoting human rights around the world,” the memo reads.
“Providing a safe haven for Hong Kong residents who have been deprived of their guaranteed freedoms in Hong Kong promotes US interests in the region.”
Biden’s order applies to Hong Kong residents currently in the United States, with certain exceptions.
These exceptions include those who cannot be admitted or deported to the United States under immigration law, those convicted of one or more offenses in the United States, and those whose presence is not in the interests of the United States
Senator Ben Sasse, the Republican from Nebraska who tabled a bill last year that automatically grants asylum to Hong Kong residents in the US, said Biden’s order was “a solid step, but we need to go further.”
“We must offer full asylum to Hong Kong people who are fleeing the brutal repression of Chairman Xi,” said Sasse, referring to the general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, Xi Jingping.
“America must stand firmly behind the victims of communism and show the world that we will always stand up for freedom around the world.”