One Big Thing: Should the U.S. grant refugee status to Hong Kong democracy activists?
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What’s the story?
- A controversial immigration law enacted in Hong Kong has sparked concerns among pro-democracy activists that the Chinese Communist Party-backed government will seek to prevent them from leaving the city. Exit bans have become increasingly prevalent in mainland China for use against citizens and foreigners alike, including Americans.
- The Hong Kong Bar Association said the law, which took effect on August 1st, gives the government the power to bar any person from entering or leaving Hong Kong for an indefinite period without obtaining a court order. The government dismissed those concerns as “nonsense.”
- Hong Kong’s national security police have reportedly compiled a list of people to arrest if they try to flee the city, which resulted in the apprehension of a writer from the Apple Daily. The Apple Daily was the last major pro-democracy newspaper in Hong Kong and shuttered its bureau in the city after several editors and executives were arrested by the CCP.
- Politico obtained a letter from a coalition of pro-democracy Hong Kongers in exile calling on Congress to pass a bill to grant priority refugee status to Hong Kongers.
What would the bill do?
- Introduced by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) in the Senate and Rep. John Curtis (R-UT) in the House, the bipartisan Hong Kong Safe Harbor Act would designate certain Hong Kong residents and their immediate family members with priority status for refugee consideration, known as “Priority 2” refugee status.
- Priority 2 refugee status would be available to Hong Kongers who suffered persecution or have a well-founded fear of persecution as a result of peaceful political activity; or have been formally charged, detained, or convicted for certain peaceful actions. This would also allow Hong Kong refugees to be admitted without counting against numerical limits refugee admissions.
- Under the bill, Hong Kongers could not be denied admission to the U.S. due to a politically motivated government action against them (such as revocation of citizenship) stemming from their involvement in the 2019-2020 protests against China’s encroachment on Hong Kong’s autonomy. Those whose Hong Kong residency was revoked would remain eligible for refugee status as victims of political persecution.
- Additionally, the bill would ease the path to an asylum claim for Hong Kongers who were arrested amid the protests by waiving the consideration of immigration intent in the asylum application process.
— Eric Revell
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