By Safiye ERGUN
Since protests that broke out in 2019, the Hong Kong issue has lost its priority on the agenda, however the region has never completely stabilized. With the latest statement from the Biden administration supporting Hongkongers, the issue has once again gained traction.
It is known that the People’s Republic of China enforced the comprehensive National Security Law on Hong Kong in June 2020. According to Western sources, this law is prepared to undermine Hong Kong’s autonomy and the Hong Kong and Beijing authorities victimized the people of Hong Kong by hamstring freedom of press and arresting more than 10.000 people.
According to Washington such developments are “politically motivated arrests” and definitely a “significant erosion” of rights and freedoms.
Tong Ying-kit, 24, became the first person to be convicted in Hong Kong under this controversial National Security Law. He was sentenced to nine years in prison. In addition, “a newspaper has been closed down, public protest appears to be banned, and nearly all of the city’s leading pro-democracy figures, including activists and politicians, have either been jailed or forced into exile.”
On 5th of August 2021, U.S. President Joe Biden offered Hong Kong residents living in the United States an 18-month extension to their visas to provide them “a safe haven” from Beijing’s oppression in the region. He signed a memorandum for allowing Hongkongers to live longer in the U.S. According to official statements from the U.S. Department of State:
“(…) Today, President Biden directed Deferred Enforced Departure for Hong Kong residents in the United States for 18 months, joining our partners and allies in offering safe haven should residents fear returning to Hong Kong. In the face of PRC and Hong Kong authorities’ attempts to stifle democratic aspirations, we will take action. We will continue to stand up for the human rights and freedoms guaranteed to people in Hong Kong by the Sino-British Joint Declaration and the Basic Law. Today we send a clear message that the United States resolutely stands with people in Hong Kong.”
Such statements from U.S. officials are remarked as “shameless political manipulations” by the Chinese side. They clearly underline that the people of Hong Kong and China will not be silent against such expounding.
With Biden’s own words, presenting a safe haven for Hongkongers “furthers United States interests in the region. The United States will not waver in our support of people in Hong Kong.” Although it is not known exactly how many people the offer has bonded, it is thought that most Hongkongers will evaluate it positively.
During previous months, we witnessed US sanctions against Chinese officials and companies in Hong Kong. In retaliation, sanctions were imposed on US companies by China.
Liu Pengyu, spokesman of the Chinese Embassy in Washington, alleged that the U.S. description of what occurs in Hong Kong “confounds black and white” and the National Security Law, instead, created a safer environment and protected rights and freedoms.
This proposal was harshly criticized by China on August 9, 2021. South China Morning Post – a Hong-Kong led news agency – publicised China’s reactions as “Beijing slams US ‘safe haven’ offer to Hongkongers as ‘plot to stir up trouble’, interference in city affairs.” Furthermore, Chinese officials demanded the U.S. to urgently abandon this policy.
“By offering so-called safe haven, it is trying to bad-mouth Hong Kong, smear China and engage in actions to destroy the city’s prosperity and stability. (…) Anti-China disruptions will definitely lead nowhere (…) we urge the US to stop immediately and abandon its scheme as soon as possible,” a spokesman of the Chinese office said.
The other official statement came from Hua Chunying, a spokeswoman for China’s Foreign Ministry: “The so-called memorandum blatantly defames and attacks the Law of the PRC on Safeguarding National Security in the HKSAR and China’s Hong Kong policy. (…) The Chinese side deplores and firmly rejects this and has lodged solemn representations with the US side.”
Beside the commentary of the spokesperson, the Foreign Minister of China himself made a statement and evaluated Biden’s action as “slandered and smeared Hong Kong’s national security law, nakedly intervened in Hong Kong affairs and China’s internal affairs, and blatantly trampled on international law and the basic norms of international relations.”