WASHINGTON, Aug 5 (Reuters) – President Joe Biden on Thursday offered temporary “safe haven” to Hong Kong residents in the United States, allowing what could be thousands of people to extend their stay in the country in response to Beijing’s crackdown on democracy in the Chinese territory.
In a signed memo, Biden directed the Department of Homeland Security to implement a “deferral of removal” for up to 18 months for Hong Kong residents currently in the United States, citing “compelling foreign policy reasons”.
“Over the last year, the PRC has continued its assault on Hong Kong’s autonomy, undermining its remaining democratic processes and institutions, imposing limits on academic freedom, and cracking down on freedom of the press,” Biden said in the memo, using the acronym for the People’s Republic of China.
“Offering safe haven for Hong Kong residents who have been deprived of their guaranteed freedoms in Hong Kong furthers United States interests in the region. The United States will not waver in our support of people in Hong Kong,” Biden said.
The vast majority of Hong Kong residents currently in the United States are expected to be eligible, according to a senior administration official, but some legal conditions apply, such as individuals not having been convicted of felonies.
The White House said in a statement the move made clear the United States…