By Betsy Klein, CNN
President Joe Biden on Thursday signed a memorandum extending temporary safe haven to certain Hong Kong residents in the US amid ongoing repression and undermining of democracy by China.
The presidential memorandum, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement, directs “the deferral of removal of certain Hong Kong residents who are present in the United States, giving them a temporary safe haven.”
Biden’s memorandum directed that the deferral, effective Thursday, will defer removal for the next 18 months.
It comes over a year after a national security law imposed by China criminalized acts of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion in Hong Kong, which has led to a crackdown on dissent. A newspaper has been closed down, public protest appears to be banned, and nearly all of the city’s leading pro-democracy figures, including activists and politicians, have either been jailed or forced into exile.
Thursday’s action, Psaki said, “demonstrates President Biden’s strong support for people in Hong Kong in the face of ongoing repression by the People’s Republic of China (PRC), and makes clear we will not stand idly by as the PRC breaks its promises to Hong Kong and to the international community.”
She continued, “Given the politically motivated arrests and trials, the silencing of the media, and the diminishing the space for elections and democratic opposition, we will continue to take steps in support of people in Hong Kong.”
It also comes after Biden declared a national emergency with respect to Hong Kong last month, citing actions by China that “fundamentally undermine Hong Kong’s autonomy,” which, the White House said, poses “an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the deferral sends “a clear message that the United States resolutely stands with people in Hong Kong.
“In the face of PRC and Hong Kong authorities’ attempts to stifle democratic aspirations, we will take action,” he said in a statement. “We will continue to stand up for the human rights and freedoms guaranteed to people in Hong Kong by the Sino-British Joint Declaration and the Basic Law.”
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CNN’s Jennifer Hansler and Jessie Yeung contributed to this report.