Last July, five young people boarded a recreational boat in a remote port in Hong Kong. They passed through the waters patroled by Chinese authorities and headed east across the South China Sea.
When they approached Taiwan, they stopped their motors, hoping to be rescued by the Taiwan Coast Guard. They were lucky.
Now, after spending a few months in Taiwan, they will seek asylum in the United States, which arrived at Kennedy International Airport in New York on Wednesday.
They are part of a trickle of political activists who have fled Hong Kong since China’s central government imposed strict national security legislation on Hong Kong in June, and five men have campaigned against democratization. Erased various forms of political opposition, including. I participated.
An explanation of the escape from Hong Kong, stay in Taiwan, and arrival in the United States was given by Samuel Chu, the founder of the Hong Kong Democracy Council, a Washington-based advocacy group that arranged men’s travel and accommodation. It was provided. Help them apply for asylum. None of the five men wanted to be identified because they were concerned that they could endanger their relatives in Hong Kong. One of them spoke on condition of anonymity.
While in Taiwan, they were detained at a military base and were not allowed to communicate with family and friends, but a man who agreed to the interview said they were treated well. They believed that the United States offered the best opportunity to resume their lives, he said.
After weeks of negotiations, the man was admitted to the United States for humanitarian reasons, Chu said.
Their arrival in the United States could create further tensions between China and the United States, bringing an early challenge to the upcoming Biden administration, as relations between the two countries are at their lowest points in decades.
China has cast opposition to democratization in Hong Kong as a criminal, but the United States and other democracies have challenged China over its crackdown on Hong Kong’s freedom. Taiwan’s involvement in China’s claim of self-governing island democracy only increases sensitivity.
A spokeswoman for the State Department and the US Citizenship and Immigration Department declined to comment on the case because of privacy concerns. A spokesman for the American Institute in Taiwan, which is the de facto embassy of the United States, did not comment, nor did a spokesperson for the Taiwan Mainland Affairs Council comment.
According to Chu, all five protesters between the ages of 18 and 26 fled Hong Kong for fear of being imprisoned soon, and at least one was previously arrested in connection with his role in protests. It had been.
The move to allow men to enter the country for humanitarian reasons on the final day of the Trump administration contrasts with the dramatic reduction in refugee quotas over the past four years. In December, a parliamentary law that made it easier for Hong Kong residents to gain refugee status was blocked by Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz.
A few years ago, the idea of political dissidents fleeing Hong Kong, a former British colony that returned to Chinese rule in 1997, would have seemed unimaginable. More than 7 million people in Hong Kong have one of the highest per capita incomes in the world and enjoy political freedom unknown in mainland China.
However, after becoming the Chinese top leader of the second half 習近 Xiaoping 2012, Beijing began to dominate the Hong Kong increasingly heavy hand. National Security Act, which was imposed after a large and sometimes violent anti-democratic movement swept the city in 2019, prompted some activists to leave. Most did not depart in such a dramatic way and boarded flights to Europe or North America. Some went out to sea for fear of being arrested at the airport.
In August, a few weeks after the five men arrived in Taiwan, 12 other Hong Kong activists were caught by the China Coast Guard as they tried to reach the island. Most of them were arrested in Hong Kong and left to avoid trial. They were held free of charge for months in mainland China. In December, 10 activists were sentenced to 7 to 3 years in prison, two of whom organized an escape attempt and the rest illegally crossed boundaries. The other two activists, both boys, were returned to Hong Kong.
Other countries are also accepting Hong Kong activists. Canada has allowed 14 people to go into exile since the end of December, according to a statement from the New Hong Kong Cultural Club Canada, a volunteer group that supports political refugees from Hong Kong. In October, the Hong Kong government protested Germany’s grant of asylum to demonstrators faced with riot charges.
The UK is offering new visas to residents of Hong Kong, and millions of people born before the 1997 delivery may eventually become British citizens.
AmyQin and AmyChangChien contributed to the report.
Hong Kong protesters seeking asylum in the U.S.
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