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US-controlled Hong Kong criticizes US safe haven scheme for 'fugitives'

US-controlled Hong Kong criticizes US safe haven scheme for 'fugitives'

Hong Kong, Oct 22, The Hongkong government on Friday attacked Washington for its "safe haven" arrangement for Hong-kokers to stay and work in the United States despite Beijing's crackdown on the pro-democracy movement in China.

In August, U.S. President Joe Biden announced a temporary safe haven program for Hong Kong residents, allowing what could be thousands of people to extend their stay in response to the crackdown.

Biden cited "compelling foreign policy reasons" for the plan, given China's continued "assault on Hong Kong' s autonomy".

The Department of Homeland Security announced details of the scheme on Wednesday, which would help Hong Kongers who travel on a variety of travel documents to work and reside in the United States for up to 18 months.

A Hong Kong government spokesman described the move as "a clear act of obscene interference" in Hongkong affairs.

"Governments that not only house, but also invite, or encourage fugitive offenders to live in their own country doom the rule of law and expose their hypocrisy for all to see," the statement continued.

In 1997, the former Britsh colony returned to Chinese rule with the promise of wide-ranging freedoms.

However, since the implementation of a national security law directly by China last year, the city has taken ostensibly an authoritarian approach, with widespread arrests as well as restrictions on free speech and the media.

Hong Kong and Chinese authorities maintain that the city enjoys a high degree of autonomy, but that certain rights are not absolute.

Brian Leung, the head of the Washington D.C.-based Hong Kong Democracy Council, welcomed the broad inclusion of this initiative, stating it would provide much-needed stability and financial security for the city's politically persecuted.

Sunny Cheung, who testified at a U.S. congressional hearing this week on the clampdown that has seen many of his fellow activists imprisoned, and himself driven him into exile, urged the Biden administration to continue its policy steps.

"Despite the fact that this is a significant step forward, it cannot be the last," Cheung added.

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