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With the Chinese government removing four pro-democracy lawmakers from the Hong Kong Legislative Council last week, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., renewed his opposition to the communist regime’s handling of Hong Kong.

Back in June, Rubio introduced the “Hong Kong Safe Harbor Act” with the support of U.S. Sens. Ben Cardin, D-Mary., Bob Menendez, D-NJ, Jeff Merkley, D-Oreg., and Todd Young, R-Ind. The bill “would provide those Hong Kongers who peacefully protested Beijing’s corrupt justice system, and have a well-founded fear of persecution, to be eligible for Priority 2 Refugee status” and is in “response to the People’s Republic of China (PRC) actions to implement its Law of the People’s Republic of China on Safeguarding National Security in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.”

Besides granting Hong Kong protester Priority 2 Refugee Status, the bill would also waive immigration intent for non-immigrant visas and let refugees who have their citizenship revoked by the Chinese regime stay in the U.S. The bill would end in five years.

“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,” Rubio said when he introduced the proposal. “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,” Menendez said. “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.”

While Rubio rounded up nine cosponsors, the bill has been stuck before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee since June.

However, after China removed supporters of democracy from the Hong Kong Legislative Council, Rubio and Merkley, who are both on the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC), released a joint statement last week.

“Democracy in Hong Kong is gasping for air. This morning, China’s unelected and unaccountable National People’s Congress Standing Committee took another grave step toward stripping the people of Hong Kong of their sacred rights and freedoms—this time by ousting Alvin Yeung, Kwok Ka-ki, Dennis Kwok, and Kenneth Leung from the city’s Legislative Council,” Rubio and Merkley said on Wednesday. “These lawmakers were duly elected by their constituents, but forced out of their positions by a new directive from Beijing that disqualifies any advocate or supporter of Hong Kong’s autonomy—which Beijing promised to protect—from holding elected office.

“It is critical that the United States and all allies of freedom come together to recognize and condemn the undeniable and far reaching ramifications of this authoritarian powergrab, which has wiped out what little remained of Hong Kong’s democratic political system and violates China’s treaty obligations” Rubio and Merkley continued. “We stand in solidarity with the unseated public servants, their 15 colleagues who have resigned in protest of today’s crackdown, and all Hong Kongers who have stood up time and time again in the face of a brutal regime for the sake of their city and the values they hold dear. You are heard, seen, and supported around the world—and there will be consequences for Beijing’s actions.”

Also in June, U.S. Rep. John Curtis, R-Utah, introduced the companion bill in the U.S. House with the support of a host of cosponsors from both sides of the aisle including U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Fla., who leads Republicans on the U.S. House Asia and the Pacific Subcommittee. Yoho did not seek reelection this year and is retiring after eight years in the House.

“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 Yoho when the bill was introduced “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.”

The bill has more than 30 cosponsors including U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla. The proposal was sent to the U.S. House Foreign Affairs and the Judiciary Committees where it has lingered since the end of June.


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