Hong Kong Safe Harbor Act Shows U.S. Solidarity With Hong Kong Freedom Fighters

Photo by Manson Yim on Unsplash

In early July, it was announced that US Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and US Representatives John Curtis (R-UT) and Joaquin Castro (D-TX) introduced in both the Senate and House of Representatives a landmark bill that could potentially provide Hong Kong protesters with an escape route of sorts in the case that they come under direct threat by Hong Kong security forces and the judicial system as a result of their political activism.

Congressman Castro stated, “The United States has long served as a beacon of hope for people fighting for freedom around the globe. Many of us saw ourselves in the Hong Kong protesters taking to the streets to combat authoritarianism and exercise their voices. This bill ensures that America will offer refuge to Hong Kongers facing political persecution and provide a safe haven that is commensurate with their courage and commitment to liberty and justice.

Among the different specifications in this bill is that the Trump administration must legally desginate Hong Kong citizens as “victims of persecution as Priority 2 refugees, allowing them to apply directly to the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program.” This provision essentially eliminates the middleman- the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees- through which individuals must apply, wait, and be accepted in order to gain refugee status in the States. Additionally, family members of such Hong Kong citizens are also able to receive this preferential status, which has the potential to not only decrease the burden of proof for these victims but also expedite the process of obtaining refuge in the United States.

For an individual seeking refugee status or asylum in the United States, it is often difficult to prove that one is a victim of persecution if their case does not include specific acts of religious persecution; however, Congressman Sherman explains that, in the broader sense, Hong Kong citizens are constantly persecuted from all angles by the government that is supposed to protect and promote their civil liberties. He states: “Beijing’s unilateral move to impose a new national security law after years of unsuccessful attempts to use the local Hong Kong legislature to pass other anti-democracy measures must not go unanswered. This bill ensures that when the situation on the ground in Hong Kong becomes untenable and Hong Kongers are unduly persecuted due to their political beliefs, the people of Hong Kong have a place to turn. The United States must stand with Hong Kongers and work with our allies to make accommodations for those fleeing undue curtailments to their political rights, as granted to Hong Kong under the Joint Declaration and the Basic Law.”