Hong Kong, once a haven for those seeking to escape the Chinese Communist Party’s iron fist, has seen a rapid deterioration of freedom in recent months. Media and business mogul Jimmy Lai’s arrest and the breakup of his pro-democracy newspaper, Apple Daily, are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the CCP’s forceful decimation of free speech and silencing dissent.
Former President Donald Trump was very critical of Communist China. Now, the Biden administration has also spoken out publicly on this human rights crisis. On Aug. 5, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, under President Biden, offered a “safe haven” to Hong Kong citizens residing in the U.S. due to the ever-restrictive National Security Laws, or NSLs, enforced by China in Hong Kong.
Biden urged the Department of Homeland Security to implement a “deferral of movement” for up to 18 months for some Hong Kongese due to what the president described as “foreign policy reasons.”
The vast majority of Hong Kongese residing in the United States would qualify for the offer, with the administration’s push for refuge falling under the Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) program; one that can be renewed indefinitely by a sitting U.S. president.
“By unilaterally imposing on Hong Kong the Law of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) on safeguarding National Security in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, the PRC has undermined the enjoyment of rights and freedoms in Hong Kong,” the White House said in Thursday’s press release.
To further ensure Hong Kong resident’s well-being, especially while living in the U.S., Biden directed the Department of Homeland Security to “take appropriate measures to authorize employment for non-citizens whose removal has been deferred.”
Biden’s announcement comes after Hong Kong’s recent crackdown on assembly and speech due to legislation under the country’s NSLs. Over 100 Hong Kong politicians, protesters, and pro-democracy advocates have been taken into custody on NSL-related charges.
The CCP’s NSL outlaws any action that qualifies as dangerous to the security of China or as an attempt of secession. The NSL extended its reach from the Chinese Communist regime to the former British colony, Hong Kong, when it went into effect there in June 2020. Since then, Hong Kong citizens’ freedoms have been smothered by CCP’s insatiable quest for absolute control.
The White House said the safe haven decision shows the United States “will not stand idly by as the PRC breaks its promises to Hong Kong and the international community.” The Biden administration stressed that the PRC continually erodes the rule of law in Hong Kong.
After the U.S. imposed sanctions on Chinese officials, China retaliated with sanctions of their own – against U.S. citizens.
According to the South China Post, Chinese spokeswoman Hua Chunying commented: “The so-called memorandum blatantly defames and attacks the law of China on safe-guarding National Security in Hong Kong and China’s Hong Kong policy,” saying that the White House’s actions are an example of “vile behavior.”
Republican Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska offered bipartisan support for actions combating Hong Kong’s increasing inhumane treatment of its citizens. “It is a step in the right direction,” Sasse remarked. However, he added that the U.S should “go further” – that Washington “should offer full asylum to Hong Kongers who flee Chairman Xi’s brutal oppression.”
In an article released on Friday, The Wall Street Journal suggested that President Biden should also urge Beijing to “release such Hong Kongers as publisher Jimmy Lai and others who have been imprisoned merely for supporting freedom and democracy.”
It’s an important point: If the United States does not publicly stand behind courageous activists who sacrifice their life as a visible sign of supporting the ideals of a free society, then who will?
While the U.S. finally opens its doors to Hong Kongers, allowing an 18-month deferment on deportation, Hong Kong entrepreneur and pro-democracy activist Jimmy Lai is spending 14 months in prison for participating in a pro-democracy protest. In April 2021, Lai was charged with colluding with foreign forces under the NSL.
As the CCP expedited control and promulgated strict adherence to government rule, Jimmy Lai had multiple opportunities to flee Hong Kong and find safety in Great Britain. He could have very well found a safe haven in another country, like most Hong Kongers are fortunately experiencing now in the U.S.
But Lai remained in Hong Kong.
He has no regrets, and accepted his fate as a sacrifice for the sake of democracy in his country, in which he found his financial success.
Lai was ready, saying he was “prepared for prison,” upon his arrest.
In the CCP’s government and media, Lai is a traitor and a troublemaker. In the eyes of those Hong Kong citizens who courageously promote democracy and a free society, Lai is a hero.
The CCP tries to make examples out of the protestors they arrest. Lai and other pro-democracy advocates use their arrest and imprisonment as a stage to showcase that truth and freedom are worth fighting for.
The United States is the latest nation to offer a safe haven to those fleeing Communist regimes, but the inherent virtuousness of a democratic society founded on liberty will soon be forgotten lest we forget those who voluntarily stay behind, offering their lives in the fight for a better future for their home and for future generations to come.