Biden extends deportation protections for Hongkongers

A 2021 rule allowing Hong Kong residents to remain in the United States has been extended by two years.
Alex Willemyns and RFA Cantonese
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Biden extends deportation protections for Hongkongers People wave goodbye as passengers make their way through the departure gates of Hong Kong's International Airport, July 22, 2021.

U.S. President Joe Biden has extended by two years a rule that has allowed Hong Kong residents already in the United States to remain instead of being deported back to the Chinese territory.

The Deferred Enforced Departure exemptions for Hong Kong residents were introduced in August 2021 and were set to expire on Feb. 5, according to a memorandum from the White House, which said the decision was in line with “our democratic values.”

“Offering safe haven for Hong Kong residents who have been deprived of their guaranteed freedoms in Hong Kong furthers United States interests in the region,” it said. “The United States will continue to stand firm in our support of the people in Hong Kong.”

An estimated 3,860 Hong Kong residents were allowed to remain under the original ruling, but the extension expands the program to also include any other Hongkongers now in the United States.

China began cracking down on Hong Kong’s sovereignty in the wake of the 2019-2020 protests against a proposed extradition law that would have allowed Beijing to arrest dissidents in the self-governing territory and move them to the mainland’s judicial system.

The White House memorandum said the ensuing political climate in Hong Kong, and Beijing’s “assault on Hong Kong’s autonomy,” made it necessary for the United States to expand the deferral program, which it notes includes the granting U.S. employment rights.

“Since June 2020, at least 150 opposition politicians, activists, and protesters have been taken into custody on politically motivated NSL-related charges including secession, subversion, terrorist activities, and collusion with a foreign country or external elements,” the memorandum says. “Over 1,200 political prisoners are now behind bars, and over 10,000 individuals have been arrested for other charges in connection with anti-government protests.”

A Hong Kong resident who entered the United States on a tourist visa last year, and who gave only his nickname “Ah Keung,” told Radio Free Asia that he was happy to hear the news.

He said he was particularly pleased the extension included U.S. working rights.

“I will finish my studies soon, and then I can start looking for a job because I haven’t worked for awhile,” he said. “I haven’t been getting any income, only expenses, so I want to find a job as quickly as I can to relieve the financial stress in my life.”

Former Hong Kong lawmaker Baggio Leung, who also now resides in the United States, welcomed the extension, but called for the passage of the Hong Kong Safe Harbor Act, which would provide permanent immigration rights to Hongkongers.

“This is a continuation of the U.S. government’s recent views on Hong Kong’s political situation,” he said. “I believe that the entire U.S. government will continue to maintain this attitude towards Hong Kong policy in the future.”


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