Merkley, McGovern, Kaine Seek Extension from the Biden Administration to Protect Vulnerable Hong Kong Residents in America from Deportation

Merkley, McGovern, Kaine Seek Extension from the Biden Administration to Protect Vulnerable Hong Kong Residents in America from Deportation

Washington, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley, along with Representative Jim McGovern (D-MA-02) and Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA), today sent a letter to the Biden Administration requesting a minimum 18-month extension to the Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) program to protect Hong Kong residents living in America from deportation. The DED program was instituted in reaction to the erosion of rights and freedoms in Hong Kong by the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the Hong Kong government. The DED program is set to expire on February 5, 2023. 

Merkley and McGovern are past chairs of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China. Merkley and Kaine both serve on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

“As documented in the 2022 Annual Report of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, the Hong Kong government continues to undermine the bedrock of due process and erode the human rights guaranteed to Hong Kong’s citizens under international law,” wrote Merkley, McGovern, and Kaine. “It is our conclusion that human rights abuses and political persecution will continue into the indefinite future. Under the circumstances, we believe that it is essential that the DED program be extended by another 18 months at a minimum.”

The lawmakers’ letter calls attention to not only the erosion of rights and freedoms by the PRC, but also the imposition of the National Security Law (NSL). The NSL has served as one of the main legal bases for dismantling democratic freedoms and the arbitrary detention and harassment of opposition politicians, pro-democracy activists, advocates for free speech and a free press, and protesters.

“In fact, the need for this [DED extension] continues to grow. As we speak, Hong Kong authorities are broadening the scope of repression. We are deeply concerned by reports that Hong Kong police have begun to harass family members of exiled activists and issued threats in an attempt to quash dissenting voices overseas,” the lawmakers continued.

The letter concludes with the lawmakers’ commitment to continue working with the Biden Administration to advance their mutual interest in protecting the persecuted and advancing fundamental freedoms.

Full text of the letter can be found here and follows below:

Dear Mr. President:

We write to ask you to extend the 18-month Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) program for certain Hong Kong residents, which is set to expire on February 5, 2023.[1]

The DED program was instituted in reaction to the erosion of rights and freedoms in Hong Kong by the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the Hong Kong government, including the imposition of the National Security Law (NSL), which has served as one of the main legal bases for the dismantling of democratic freedoms and the arbitrary detention and harassment of opposition politicians, pro-democracy activists, advocates for free speech and a free press, and protesters.    

As documented in the 2022 Annual Report of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, the Hong Kong government continues to undermine the bedrock of due process and erode the human rights guaranteed to Hong Kong’s citizens under international law. It is our conclusion that human rights abuses and political persecution will continue into the indefinite future. Under the circumstances, we believe that it is essential that the DED program be extended by another 18 months at a minimum.

In fact, the need for this action continues to grow. As we speak, Hong Kong authorities are broadening the scope of repression. We are deeply concerned by reports that Hong Kong police have begun to harass family members of exiled activists and issued threats in an attempt to quash dissenting voices overseas.

Thank you for your consideration of our request. We look forward to working with your Administration to advance our mutual interest in protecting the persecuted and advancing fundamental freedoms.

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[1] 86 Federal Register 43587.