In official statements released on Monday, United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the US is considering opening its doors to Hong Kong citizens who are looking to avoid restrictions on freedom from neighboring China. However, no specific details were mentioned.
The statements were based on Pompeo’s comments to the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) the Friday before, where he said that the administration was “considering it.” However, Pompeo also admitted that he remained unsure of how it would play out.
“The British have, as you know, a different relationship. A lot of these folks have British national passports. There’s a long history between Hong Kong and the United Kingdom; it’s very different. But we’re taking a look at it,” he said.
Addressing the Senate on Monday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell expressed his hopes that the Trump administration would soon identify specific ways to “impose costs on Beijing” for flouting international laws and impeding on Hong Kong’s civil liberties.
He also mentioned that the US had “a rich heritage of standing as a beacon of light” to refugees from war and communism. “We should exercise it again for the people of Hong Kong.”
These statements follow the announcement of similar lifelines extended from the United Kingdom.
In an op-ed published in The Times of London as well as Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post on Wednesday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson proposed an unprecedented overhaul of the nation’s visa regulations.
The op-ed stated that all three million Hong Kongers who qualify for the British National (Overseas) passport and their dependents would be eligible to apply for extendible 12-month stays in the UK if Beijing is to enact the newly proposed security law – a law that would prohibit acts and activities related to subversion, terrorism, separatism and foreign interference.
“Many people in Hong Kong fear their way of life – which China pledged to uphold – is under threat,” he began. “If China proceeds to justify their fears, then Britain could not in good conscience shrug our shoulders and walk away; instead we will honor our obligations and provide an alternative.”
Chinese representatives however, appear unfazed by Britain’s statements, dismissing them as moves that look good politically but are ultimately without significant implications.
“Those having BN(O) [status] are those who were born before 1997, meaning Britain has no plans to assist those younger generations, those involved mainly in the anti-government protests,” said Lau Siu-kai – the vice president of Beijing’s top think tank on Hong Kong and representative of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macau studies in the South China Morning Post.
While China has yet to respond directly to Pompeo’s most recent announcement it comes amid an already tense period where the two world powers have been interlocked in back-and-forth tensions.
Following the US’ recent retraction of Hong Kong’s special status under customs law, the Chinese government ordered state-owned firms to stop or suspend large-scale purchases of pork, soybean, cotton, and corn products from the US in retaliation.
If tensions continue to escalate, some suspect that the first phase of the trade deal between China and the US will be repealed.
Speaking to Reuters, an anonymous source with ties to the Beijing government said, “There’s no way Beijing can buy goods from the US when receiving constant attacks from Trump.”
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