House Approves TPS, Refugee Protections For Hong Kongers
Law360 (December 8, 2020, 6:45 PM EST) –
The U.S. House of Representatives has passed bipartisan legislation that would allow Hong Kongers involved in the region’s pro-democracy protests to seek protection in the U.S.
Introduced by Rep. Tom Malinowski, D-N.J., and co-sponsored by 23 congress members, including six Republicans, the Hong Kong People’s Freedom and Choice Act of 2020, H.R. 8428, passed the lower house Monday in a voice vote, an approval procedure reserved for measures with broad support.
If enacted, the bill would create a five-year window for activists who challenged the passage in July of the Hong Kong National Security Law, which brought the special administrative region more directly under control of mainland China’s ruling Communist Party, and other political dissidents to apply for refugee status.
“Welcoming Hong Kongers to the United States is more than a humanitarian gesture — it’s a message to the Chinese government that if you crush Hong Kong, you may lose the very people who most contribute to its vitality. It’s about fighting a closed and fearful system with the openness and self-confidence of ours,” Malinowski said in a statement Monday.
The bill would allow eligible Chinese nationals or stateless persons who were residents of Hong Kong at the time of their arrival in the U.S. to apply for temporary protected status. It also calls on the secretary of state to issue a final rule concerning “Priority Hong Kong Residents” who have lived in Hong Kong for at least 10 years at the time the bill becomes law and whose only citizenship is in China, Hong Kong or Macau.
Priority Hong Kong Residents who “had a significant role in a civil society organization supportive of the protests,” were arrested or detained for nonviolent exercise of their human rights, or previously lost their Chinese citizenship for applying to immigrate to the U.S., as well as their spouses, unmarried children and parents, would be eligible to apply for refugee status or asylum.
Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, who chaired the House GOP China Task Force earlier this year but who was not among the bill’s Republican co-sponsors, offered strong support in floor remarks Monday.
“The Hong Kong Freedom and Choice Act serves as a reminder to the Chinese Communist Party that America stands with the people of Hong Kong, and it will stand for freedom,” McCaul said, urging his colleagues to back the measure.
Following passage by the House, the bill is due in the Senate.
Both chambers passed legislation to sanction companies that assisted China in suppressing Hong Kong’s independence over the summer. In July, President Donald Trump issued an executive order eliminating Hong Kong’s trade exemption in light of China’s encroachment.
–Additional reporting by Andrew Kragie. Editing by Michael Watanabe.
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