U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken believes that Hongkongers who flee the city should be welcomed into the United States with refugee status. His comments come when the freedoms in Hong Kong are increasingly curtailed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). The CCP seeks to stamp out all Western influences in the region, including democracy, free speech, and human rights.
“We’ve seen China act egregiously to undermine the very commitments it made during the handover of Hong Kong from Britain. And we see people who are, again, in Hong Kong standing up for their own rights, the rights that they felt were guaranteed to them… If they’re the victims of repression from Chinese authorities, we should do something to give them haven,” he said in an interview with MSNBC. Blinken also confirmed that Washington is reviewing the tariffs that the Trump administration had added to $300 billion worth of Chinese imports.
In early January, Hong Kong police arrested 50 people, including prominent lawmakers, for carrying out an informal primary election last year. Blinken had condemned the police action, calling it an assault on citizens who advocated for human rights. He promised that the Biden administration would stand with Hongkongers against the atrocities perpetrated by the communist regime.
During his Senate confirmation hearing, Blinken once again condemned the attack on Hong Kong’s freedoms
Blinken stated that the United States should have acted sooner concerning the infringement on Hong Kong’s democracy. He raised the possibility of offering asylum to fleeing Hongkongers. Blinken also wanted Washington to take a “hard look” at the U.S. position regarding Hong Kong companies and institutions and whether the city will remain a globally recognized financial center.
While the U.S. is thinking of giving asylum to Hongkongers, the UK government has officially opened up a visa scheme to offer Hongkongers who have British National (Overseas) status a path to citizenship. The scheme was first announced in July last year after Beijing imposed the National Security Law in Hong Kong.
The visa program will allow qualified individuals to live, work, and study in the United Kingdom for a period of five years. Afterward, they will be eligible to apply for citizenship. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that he was “immensely proud” of the visa scheme that honored his country’s historical ties with Hong Kong people.
Benedict Rogers, chief executive of British NGO Hong Kong Watch, said that allowing Hongkongers to migrate into the UK will benefit the country since they are highly educated and entrepreneurial. He said that giving them a path to citizenship is a good decision.
“I think it’s absolutely right because Britain does have a moral responsibility to Hong Kong, and indeed a legal responsibility under the Sino-British Joint Declaration as well… Given the fact that Hong Kong’s freedoms are being dismantled, freedoms that were promised to Hong Kong as under the Joint Declaration. I think it’s absolutely right that we now offer those who want to, to be able to come to the UK and to have a place of safety and freedom,” he said in an interview.
Beijing has stopped recognizing the British National (Overseas) passports as valid travel and identity documents since Jan. 31. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian lashed out at the UK’s visa scheme for Hongkongers. She called it interference in communist China’s internal affairs and an attempt to turn a large number of people from Hong Kong into “second-class British citizens.”