President Joe Biden extended a two-year deportation protection program for Hong Kongers last week, drawing blowback from the Beijing-backed Hong Kong government.
The Deferred Enforced Departure for Certain Hong Kong Citizens program, first enacted by Biden in August 2021 for 18 months, was set to expire in the coming weeks. The program allows certain Hong Kong residents who are currently in the United States to stay in the country without threat of deportation if they are concerned about their safety returning home.
US extends ‘safe haven’ deportation protection for fleeing Hongkongers
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— Hong Kong Free Press HKFP (@hkfp) January 27, 2023
The Biden administration enacted the program, and subsequently extended it, due to concerns about Hong Kong’s new national security law signed in the summer of 2020. The enactment of the new law led to a crackdown on protests in the territory as well as a tightening of restrictions on independent media. Experts have said that the passage of the law was a major step towards bringing Hong Kong closer to Beijing and integrating it with mainland China.
“The US Government clearly stated that its latest actions are in its ‘foreign policy interest’ without any attempt to disguise its motives, demonstrating sinister intentions and hegemonic bullying,” a Hong Kong government spokesperson said, according to The Associated Press. “The US has many laws on national security, but chooses to continue to wantonly smear” the nationals security laws of Hong Kong, they said.
The spokesperson also denied that residents of Hong Kong were being targeted by law enforcement based on their political beliefs or actions.
The National Security Council expressed a different view: “With this action, we are demonstrating again President Biden’s strong support for the people of Hong Kong in the face of increasing repression by the (People’s Republic of China),” it said in a statement.
“We continue to strongly oppose (China’s) use of its National Security Law to deny the people of Hong Kong their human rights and fundamental freedoms, undermine Hong Kong’s autonomy, and chip away at Hong Kong’s remaining democratic processes and institutions,”
Hong Kong described the statements of the U.S. regarding political rights in the territory as “unfounded.” (RELATED: Hong Kong Protester Allegedly Beaten, Dragged By Chinese Consulate Staff In UK)
The spat is the latest sign of tension between Beijing and Washington during Biden’s presidency, following key moments such as the passage of the CHIPS Act and then-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is slated to visit China in the coming weeks.