US senators introduced a bill on Tuesday to make it easier for people from Hong Kong to obtain American refugee status if they fear persecution after joining protests against China.
The 12 senators, led by Republican Marco Rubio and Democrat Bob Menendez, said the bill was a response to a draconian national security law introduced by Beijing in Hong Kong last year that prompted mass street protests, Reuters reports.
The Hong Kong Safe Harbor Act would make “Hong Kongers who participated peacefully in the protest movement eligible for refugee status” without a limit on numbers accepted, a statement from the senators said.
“The US must do all it can to assist those Hong Kongers who have courageously stood up to defend the city they love from the CCP’s persecution and open our doors to them,” Rubio said.
Menendez said the aim was “to reiterate to the Chinese Communist Party that the US stands foursquare with the people of Hong Kong”.
The new Biden administration’s secretary of state, Antony Blinken, has said the US should accept people fleeing the Hong Kong crackdown.
“If they’re the victims of repression from Chinese authorities, we should do something to give them haven,” he told NBC news late last month.
Some conservative senators have said that any such legislation would not only help refugees flee persecution but also allow the Chinese Communist Party to exploit the system and insert spies into the American population.