Jan 26, 2023, 12:01pm EST
North America

Biden extends deportation protection for Hong Kongers in the US


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The News

U.S. President Joe Biden announced Thursday a two-year extension and expansion of a program that would allow Hong Kongers currently based in the U.S. to stay beyond the expiration dates of their visas, until January 26, 2025.

Biden said the extension would offer “a safe haven for Hong Kong residents who have been deprived of their guaranteed freedoms in Hong Kong” under Chinese rule.

REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein
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Know More

Previously, Hong Kongers who were present in the U.S. on or before Aug. 5, 2021, were eligible to apply for the Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) visa. However, as of Thursday, those who are currently residing in the country will also be allowed to apply for a visa extension.

The program was set to expire in two weeks on Feb. 5, but the Biden administration faced mounting pressures from Democratic lawmakers and lobbyists to extend the program — that advocates said would be a lifeline for those who may face political persecution back home.

Samuel Chu, president of the Campaign for Hong Kong, told Semafor that the program had helped nearly 4,000 Hong Kongers remain in the U.S. so far. “Many would face political persecution, rigged trials, long jail sentences, and loss of freedom if forced to return,” he said.


Non-immigrant international students from Hong Kong are also able to apply for the DED, but are required to continuously reside in the U.S. from their date of arrival and are not allowed to voluntarily return to Hong Kong.

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Step Back

Since China imposed a draconian National Security Law in Hong Kong in June 2020, more than 150 opposition lawmakers, political activists, protesters, and journalists have been arrested in Hong Kong — under the broadly-defined charges of secession, subversion, terrorism, and collusion with foreign forces.

Washington claims that Beijing has undermined the basic rights and freedoms in Hong Kong — those protected under the Basic Law and Sino-British Joint Declaration — agreements that were made when the city was “handed back” to China from the British in 1997.

“The PRC has continued its assault on Hong Kong’s autonomy, undermining its remaining democratic processes and institutions, imposing limits of academic freedom, and cracking down on freedom of the press,” Biden said, in his Thursday announcement.

Roughly 20% of American expats have also left Hong Kong, according to the U.S. Center for Strategic & International Studies, saying that residents were growing increasingly concerned over diminishing freedoms under Beijing’s National Security Law. The city’s strict anti-COVID measures have also played a part in the “brain drain.”

Hong Kong only recently stopped enforcing mandatory hotel quarantine for inbound travelers. The city still requires residents to wear surgical masks in public.