US President Joe Biden shows support for the people in Hong Kong by offering them a temporary “safe haven” in the United States.
Citing “compelling foreign policy reasons” as the motivation behind this move, the Commander-in-Chief announced that visitors would be allowed to stay for a period of 18 months.
Alongside, restrictions on F-1 student visas will be suspended and they will be allowed to work in the country. However this deferred enforced departure program will not be available for those with serious criminal allegations.
In the memo, he said that the People’s Republic of China continues “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”.
Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, took to Twitter to proclaim that the government stands with the people of Hong Kong and will continue to stand up for their human rights and freedoms.
These visa relaxations were originally planned for July along with economic sanctions imposed on Chinese officials in Hong Kong. However, the protections were held up because of bureaucratic checks that needed to be done
The UK has also announced a new British National (Overseas) visa programme that allows Hong Kong residents with BN(O) status to apply for a new category of visa that will allow them and their immediate family members to live and work in Britain.
Similarly, Canada issued new visa rules in November that allow Hong Kong residents who have graduated from Canadian universities in the past five years to apply for work in the country for up to three years.
According to White House Press Secretary, Jen Psaki, this move from the US government makes it clear that they will not idly stand by as these gross violations of human rights occur. He went on to say, ““We, alongside our allies and partners, strongly oppose the PRC’s wielding of the national security law to deny basic rights and freedoms, assault Hong Kong’s autonomy and undermine its remaining democratic processes and institutions.”
A series of politically motivated arrests and trials have emerged after a national security law was imposed by China last year.
Critics say the law has enabled a crackdown on pro-democracy activists and the free press It goes back on Beijing’s promise to allow a politically autonomous Hong Kong to exist.
Liu Pengyu, spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in Washington, claimed that the narrative on the national security law is misguided, and the law has only enabled a safer environment to exist. China’s foreign ministry office in Hong Kong said that this was only an attempt to bad-mouth Hong Kong, and smear China.
Advocacy groups say that tens of thousands of people could be eligible for this deferred enforced departure program, especially students.
Senators, such as Ben Sasse, have called for the US to take more measures to facilitate Hongkongers, and the idea of offering permanent residency has also been floating around.