Press release

Freedom House Endorses US Legislation to Aid Hong Kongers Fleeing Persecution

Beijing’s new National Security Law has created a human rights crisis in Hong Kong.

In response to legislative efforts in the United States to address the Chinese central government’s imposition of a repressive National Security Law on Hong Kong, Freedom House issued the following statement:

“Freedom House commends the bipartisan efforts of lawmakers in the US Congress to address the crisis in Hong Kong and offer Hong Kongers options in the face of oppression and persecution,” said Michael J. Abramowitz, president of Freedom House. “Two pieces of proposed legislation—the Hong Kong Safe Harbor Act and the Hong Kong Freedom and Choice Act—will be critical to mitigating the short- and long-term effects of this human rights crisis, while sending a strong message to Beijing that the United States will not simply abandon the people of Hong Kong. We call on Congress to swiftly pass both of these bills into law.”


The National Security Law, which went into effect on June 30, outlines a wide range of activities that would be considered to fall under the four main offenses of separatism, subversion, terrorism, and colluding with foreign forces, assigning a maximum penalty of life in prison. The law also sets up security and law enforcement structures in Hong Kong that would be under Beijing’s close supervision and control. It has already had a chilling effect in the city, where prodemocracy groups have disbanded for fear of reprisals, and primary elections organized by prodemocracy parties have been declared illegal under the new law.

The Hong Kong Safe Harbor Act was introduced by a bipartisan coalition led by Congressman John Curtis (R-UT) to address the crisis facing politically active Hong Kongers following the abrupt imposition of the National Security Law. The legislation would designate Hong Kongers as Priority 2 refugees, streamlining the admission process to the United States and opening up an asylum route for front-line activists who are in immediate danger. In addition, the bill sets out a statement of policy encouraging other countries to make similar accommodations for Hong Kongers fleeing oppression. The full text is available here.

The Hong Kong Freedom and Choice Act was introduced by Congressman Tom Malinowski (D-NJ) and Congressman Adam Kinzinger (R-IL). It aims to protect Hong Kongers facing persecution while imposing costs on Beijing for deepening repression under the National Security Law. The legislation would ensure that the United States continues to treat Hong Kong as distinct from mainland China for immigration purposes and provide an expedited admissions process for Hong Kong’s entrepreneurs, academics, and other highly skilled workers. In addition, the bill would expedite residency for Hong Kongers who had fled or found refuge in the United States, replicating a measure used to protect Chinese students in the United States following the Tiananmen Square crackdown in 1989. Finally, the legislation promotes international cooperation for the purposes of protecting and resettling victims of political persecution in Hong Kong. The full text is available here.

China is rated Not Free in Freedom in the World 2020, and Not Free in Freedom on the Net 2019. Hong Kong is rated Partly Free in Freedom in the World 2020. 

For more on censorship, media freedom, and internet freedom issues related to the People's Republic of China, see the China Media Bulletin