Senators Propose Giving Hong Kong Residents Priority as Refugees

A bipartisan group of U.S. senators is proposing giving refugee status to Hong Kong residents at risk of persecution by the government for taking part in protests.

The legislation was introduced Tuesday in response to the government in Beijing adopting a new national security law that asserts broad new powers over Hong Kong to rein in critics.

Republican Senators Marco Rubio and Todd Young with Democrats Bob Menendez, Ben Cardin and Jeff Merkley sponsored the bill, which gives Hong Kong residents who participate in peaceful protests priority refugee status and waives immigration intent as a consideration in granting non-immigrant visas.

Companion legislation with bipartisan support has been introduced in the House.

“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,” Rubio said in a statement.

The bill is the latest legislation aimed at putting pressure on the Chinese government as members of both parties are coalescing around the idea that the U.S. needs to take a much harder line on China, including going beyond what President Donald Trump’s administration has mandated.

Congress in recent months has passed legislation providing for sanctions against Chinese officials found to be undermining Hong Kong’s autonomy and those found to be complicit in the oppression of a Muslim minority in northwest China.

These bills, both signed into law by Trump, have drawn condemnations and allegations of “meddling” from Beijing, and the Chinese government has even threatened to blow up the Phase 1 trade deal just a few months before the presidential election. Undeterred, U.S. lawmakers are preparing a raft of legislation related to China they want added to a must-pass defense bill in the coming weeks.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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