27th January 2023 – (Washington) The Hill reported that President Biden has extended a program that allows certain residents of Hong Kong to stay in the United States as China has taken steps to limit the sovereignty of the city. The White House said in a statement that it will extend Deferred Enforced Departure, which protects individuals from certain countries who are living in the U.S. from being removed for a certain period of time, for individuals from Hong Kong for an additional 24 months. Biden originally issued protection for the Hong Kong residents on 5th August 2021, and their protection was set to expire on 5th February. The White House cited the increasingly aggressive steps that China has taken in recent years to restrict the “human rights and fundamental freedoms” of the people of Hong Kong as the reason behind the extension.
China enacted a law in June 2020 to allow for citizens of Hong Kong, which is considered a special administrative region of China, to be extradited to the mainland to stand trial for crimes. The White House said at least 150 political opponents, activists and protesters have been arrested on politically motivated charges related to the law since it was put into effect. More than 1,200 “political prisoners” are currently in jail, and more than 10,000 have been arrested on charges related to anti-government protests, the statement said. “The [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,” it said.
The extension will apply to any Hong Kong resident present in the U.S. on the date it was issued, except for those who have voluntarily returned to Hong Kong or China after it was issued, have not continuously resided in the U.S. since the date of the extension, who are subject to extradition and who are not admissible into the country under federal immigration law. It will also not apply to those who have been convicted of a felony or two or more misdemeanors, who have been determined to be a danger to public safety and whose presence “the Secretary of State has reasonable grounds to believe would have potentially serious adverse foreign policy consequences.”
In response to the U.S. government’s extension of the implementation period of the Hong Kong-related memorandum, the Commissioner’s Office of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Hong Kong also criticised the U.S. on Friday (27th) for manipulating visa policies and providing a safe haven for anti-China activists from Hong Kong. The Commissioner’s Office in Hong Kong accused the United States of taking the opportunity to slander the rule of law and human rights in Hong Kong, maliciously attack the “Hong Kong National Security Law”, deliberately interfere in Hong Kong affairs and China’s internal affairs, and openly trample on the principles of international law and basic norms of international relations. It expresses strong dissatisfaction and firm opposition to the extension program.