In the latest salvo in the US-China ratcheting tit-for-tat over Hong Kong and Taiwan's political status, President Biden on Thursday signed a memorandum that authorizes the US government to give temporary safe haven to residents of Hong Kong currently on American soil.
"Today, President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. signed a memorandum directing the deferral of removal of certain Hong Kong residents who are present in the United States, giving them a temporary safe haven," White House spokesperson Jen Psaki announced.
Part of Washington's continuing response to the June 2020 China-backed Hong Kong national security law, the move is meant to signal "strong support for people in Hong Kong in the face of ongoing repression by the People’s Republic of China (PRC), and makes clear we will not stand idly by as the PRC breaks its promises to Hong Kong and to the international community," according to the statement.
Essentially the new "safe haven" law is applicable to Hong Kong citizens or residents who fear oppression, arrest, or erosion of their rights if they return to the city, given the altered political situation which arose over the past two years since protests rocked the autonomous city.
The US State Department has now indicated US authorities will defer enforced departure of Hong Kongers for at least 18 months. And DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas also announced in conjunction:
"Hong Kong residents in the United States whose removal has been deferred may also seek employment authorization through US Citizenship and Immigration Services. The United States stands with the people of Hong Kong in support of rights and freedoms."
China's reach in Hong Kong is believed to have grown significantly over much of the past year, as the somewhat vague national security law's scope has been ever-expanded, used particularly to target anti-mainland, pro-democracy activists and severely limit their speech, many of whom long ago fled the island or ended up in jail.
Biden has directed DHS to defer the removal of Hong Kong residents currently in the U.S. for 18 months, offering a "safe haven" to those who fear returning home.— Axios (@axios) August 5, 2021
"The United States will not waver in our support of people in Hong Kong," he said. https://t.co/2ERlqlXD2I
The US administration has rolled out with a series of targeted actions pushing back against the mainland's influence in Hong Kong. Last month, for example, "The Treasury Department also added seven Chinese officials working in China’s main government office in Hong Kong to a sanctions list that already includes many leading officials in the territory," as WSJ recounts. "The move blocks any assets in the U.S. financial system and puts U.S. citizens on notice not to deal with them."