Washington, DCIn response to China’s national security law, Representative John Curtis (R-UT), member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, is leading a bipartisan coalition to introduce the Hong Kong Safe Harbor Act, which would designate the people of Hong Kong as Priority 2 refugees, streamlining their admission process to the United States, and opening up an asylum route for frontline activists in immediate danger. Additionally, the bill instructs the Secretary of State to coordinate the intake of Hong Kongers as refugees with other like-minded countries.

Cosponsors include Representatives Joaquin Castro (D-TX), Mike Gallagher (R-WI), Brad Sherman (D-CA), Harley Rouda (D-CA), Ted Yoho (R-FL), Thomas Suozzi (D-NY), Elise Stefanik (R-NY), Ben McAdams (D-UT), Chris Stewart (R-UT), Jim McGovern (D-MA), Vicky Hartzler (R-MO), and Tom Malinowski (D-NJ). The Senate companion bill is led by Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Todd Young (R-IN) and Ben Cardin (D-MD).

“Hong Kong represents a struggle for democracy. The people of Hong Kong have demonstrated a desire to fight for the freedom based American values we hold dear,” said Curtis. “The Hong Kong Safe Harbor Act will empower Hong Kongers to continue their fight for freedom, while letting them know the U.S. and global community have their back.” 

“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,” said Vice-Chair Castro. “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.”

“The world witnessed the courage of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy activists, who last year took to the streets to defend their autonomy from China’s authoritarian grip,” said Rubio. “Following last night’s implementation of Beijing’s National Security Law, the U.S. must help Hong Kongers preserve their society at home and find refuge for those who face persecution for exercising the rights once guaranteed under the Joint Declaration. Through the Hong Kong Safe Harbor Act, our nation would offer a safe-haven to many Hong Kongers who have tirelessly fought against tyranny.”

“As the people of Hong Kong continue to face Beijing’s tightening grip on their autonomy, freedoms and basic human rights, the United States must hold its torch high and proud for the tired, the poor and the huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” said Ranking Member Menendez. “We are introducing this bipartisan legislation to reiterate to the Chinese Communist Party that we stand resolutely with Hong Kong and its residents, and we will ensure they don’t fall through the cracks of our broken immigration system just because they were forced to flee for standing up for their rights.”

“Hong Kongers are an incredibly well-educated population, with high-tech skills and a visceral understanding of the CCP’s true nature. Any nation would be lucky to have them,” said Gallagher. “As the CCP prepares to crush what remains of one country, two systems, the United States has not just an obligation, but an opportunity to contribute to a global airlift to save as many endangered Hong Kongers as possible.”

“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,” said Sherman. “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.”

“Peaceful protesters in Hong Kong have bravely taken to the streets to demand the autonomy promised to them. Their fight for freedom warrants more than platitudes from the United States of America,” said Rouda. “The Hong Kong Safe Harbor Act epitomizes our nation’s commitment to stand with freedom-loving people everywhere and offer refuge to those fleeing tyranny.”

“The United States has been and will continue to be, a country that welcomes the oppressed and mistreated from brutal authoritarian regimes. The people of Hong Kong were guaranteed freedoms and liberties that are now being taken away by a communist regime that has experienced neither. Communism cannot survive where free thought is allowed,” said Ranking Member Yoho. “It is our country’s moral obligation to provide a safe haven for these people, and I am honored to stand with my colleagues in Congress in supporting the Hong Kong Safe Harbor Act to provide that pathway. They will be welcomed to join and assimilate into America as so many successful ethnic groups have.”

“America stands with Hong Kong, and the values of freedom, democracy, and self-governance,” said Stefanik“This legislation gives refugee and asylum priority in the United States to Hong Kongers, particularly those who have been engaged in rightful protests against their government. The actions of the Chinese Communist Party are criminal, indefensible, and will not be tolerated. I will continue to be outspoken against the CCP for their human rights abuses and unacceptable lack of transparency.”

“The people of Hong Kong heroically fight for freedom and democracy against an oppressive Chinese communist government,” said McAdams. “We stand with them and for their right to speak freely. If they are forced to flee, America should offer refuge.” 

“Hong Kong has become the latest battlefield in the struggle for liberty and democracy around the globe. The brave young people of Hong Kong standing up to the CCP deserve more than words of support, they need to know America is willing to stand beside them in their fight,” said Stewart. “The Hong Kong Airlift Act is a re-affirmation of America’s commitment to supporting freedom loving peoples around the world and is rooted in our most basic founding principles.”

“Today, the Chinese government has taken the drastic step to formally violate its international commitments and end Hong Kong’s autonomy. The Hong Kong people have shown tremendous courage in standing up for the human rights and rule of law,” said Chairman McGovern. “It is essential that the United States support a pathway to safe haven for those forced to flee their cherished city. I am proud to support this legislation and the human rights of the Hong Kong people.”

“America has long been and must remain a place of refuge for those fleeing tyranny around the world. This bill says to everyone working to defend human rights in Hong Kong:  If you are persecuted under China’s outrageous new national security law, our doors are open to you, and China’s loss will be our gain,” said Malinowski.

Statements of Support

Samuel Chu, Managing Director, Hong Kong Democracy Council (HKDC): “The fight for Hong Kong is far from over, and the US can and must do more. HKDC believes one urgent and important US response right now is to give hope and protection to those who are risking their lives and freedoms defending Hong Kong.  That’s why HKDC endorses and supports the bipartisan legislation ‘Hong Kong Safe Harbor Act’ being introduced in both the Senate and House. It is fitting that we are taking this action this week because 31 years ago, this month, we witnessed the horrific crackdown in Tiananmen Square. In the aftermath, the US was a beacon of hope and refuge for those who escaped the massacre. The US can and should do that again for the freedom-fighters in Hong Kong. I hope the legislation sends a message to the protesters and activists, especially those who have been arrested, jailed, beaten, and even kidnapped and tortured for their public involvement in the protests and courageous act of dissents – we have your back.”

Benedict Rogers, Co-Founder and Chair of Hong Kong Watch: “The National Security law fundamentally compromises one-country, two-systems. With Beijing breaking their promises, it is vital that Hong Kongers who need it are given a way out. This is why the Hong Kong Safe Harbor Act is so timely. The US stepping up to over refuge to Hong Kong’s brave and inspiring young people is not only the right thing to do, their entrepreneurial attitude, love of freedom and dynamism will benefit the US economy and society in the long run.”  

Kristie De Peña, Niskanen Center’s Vice President of Policy and Director of Immigration Policy: “Hongkongers’ brave stand for democracy and resistance to authoritarianism is inspiring to the free world. Exercising their right to dissent must not lead to reprisals and oppression. The Hong Kong Safe Harbor Act would ensure that the United States remains a beacon of hope to those who value freedom, the rule of law, and the open society. The bill keeps with a long tradition of the United States offering safe haven to those fearing persecution. We applaud Rep. Curtis’ and his colleagues’ bold leadership in standing with Hongkongers. While we abhor the treatment that would compel them to leave, they will undoubtedly make America stronger.” 

Ali Noorani, National Immigration Forum’s President and CEO: “The National Immigration Forum supports the bipartisan Hong Kong Safe Harbor Act and its commitment to protect those with a well-founded fear of persecution, including based on differing political opinions. The Act is in line with our nation’s long history of leadership in refugee resettlement and support for freedom and democracy around the world. It establishes that individuals from Hong Kong facing oppression are refugees of special humanitarian concern that warrant the world’s attention and protection. We applaud this bipartisan effort to ensure that the United States continues to be a welcoming nation for refugees.”

Arthur Rizer, Director of Criminal Justice & Civil Liberties Policy at the R Street Institute: “Americans must stand for the right to protest against government encroachments on fundamental civil liberties. Sitting in a Birmingham jail cell and reflecting on Black Americans’ fight for equality under the law in various parts of the country, Martin Luther King Jr. famously wrote ‘injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’ As we push for restored trust between law enforcement and citizen, and for criminal justice reforms vital to the preservation of rights outlined in the Constitution, so should we acknowledge the deprivation of these liberties abroad. Residents of Hong Kong who cannot safely exercise their liberty should have refuge in the land of the free. We are proud to support Rep. Curtis’ bill as an assertion of American leadership amid the struggle for human freedom.”

This legislation is also endorsed by the Texas Public Policy Institute and the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

The idea of visas for Hong Kong has been endorsed by the Wall Street Journal Editorial Board and the Bloomberg Editorial Board.

Background

The bipartisan Hong Kong Safe Harbor Act would designate Hong Kong citizens as Priority 2 refugees—streamlining their refugee admission process. the legislation also instructs the Secretary of State to work with likeminded ally countries to accept refugees from Hong Kong.

  • Assigning Hong Kongers as Priority 2 allows any individual applying for refugee status to directly work with the U.S. government, instead of the longer process that requires referral by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). 
  • UNHCR doesn’t have a post in Hong Kong—it is quicker for Hong Kongers to apply directly with the consulate in Hong Kong or in a friendly nation. 
  • This legislation would facilitate and expedite the refugee process, allowing citizens of Hong Kong to quickly leave who are in fear of persecution. 
  • The asylum route applies to These are people who: had a leadership role in civil society organizations supportive of the protests relating to the Hong Kong extradition bill and the encroachment on the autonomy of Hong Kong by the People’s Republic of China; had an organizing role for such protests; acted as a first aid responder for such protests; suffered harm while covering such protests as a journalist; provided paid or pro-bono legal services to 1 or more individuals arrested for participating in such protests; or were formally charged, detained, or convicted for his or her participation in such protests.

Full text of the bill is available [HERE].

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