Final July, 5 younger males boarded a leisure boat in a distant harbor in Hong Kong. They handed by means of waters patrolled by the Chinese language authorities and headed east, throughout the South China Sea.
After they neared Taiwan, they minimize off their motor, hoping to be rescued by the Taiwanese Coast Guard. They had been in luck.
Now, after months in Taiwan, they intend to hunt asylum in america, the place they arrived at Kennedy Worldwide Airport in New York on Wednesday.
They’re a part of a trickle of political activists who’ve fled Hong Kong since China’s central authorities imposed a harsh national security law on the city in June, snuffing out many types of political dissent, together with the pro-democracy protests during which the 5 males had participated.
The account of their escape from Hong Kong, their keep in Taiwan and their arrival in america was offered by Samuel Chu, founding father of the Hong Kong Democracy Council, a Washington-based advocacy group that organized for the boys’s journey and lodging and helps them apply for asylum. Not one of the 5 males needed to be recognized out of concern that it may endanger their family in Hong Kong. Certainly one of them spoke on the situation of anonymity.
Whereas in Taiwan, they had been held on a navy base and never allowed to speak with their household and mates, although the person who agreed to be interviewed stated they’d been handled nicely. They believed that america supplied the very best likelihood for them to restart their lives, he stated.
After weeks of negotiations, the boys had been allowed entry into america on humanitarian grounds, Mr. Chu stated.
Their arrival in america may create additional tensions between China and america, posing an early problem for the incoming Biden administration simply as relations between the 2 nations are at their lowest level in a long time.
China has forged Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protesters as criminals, whereas america and different democracies have challenged China over its crackdown on town’s liberties. The involvement of Taiwan, a self-governing island democracy that’s claimed by China, solely provides to the sensitivity.
Spokeswomen for the State Division and United States Citizenship and Immigration Providers declined to touch upon the case, citing privateness considerations. A press officer for the American Institute in Taiwan, which serves because the de facto American embassy there, additionally wouldn’t remark, nor would a spokesperson for Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council.
All 5 protesters, who vary in age from 18 to 26, fled Hong Kong fearing that they’d quickly face imprisonment, and at the least one had beforehand been arrested in connection together with his function within the protests, Mr. Chu stated.
The Trump administration’s transfer, in its ultimate days, to grant entry to the boys on humanitarian grounds stands in distinction to its dramatic curtailing of refugee quotas over the previous 4 years. In December, laws in Congress that will have made it simpler for Hong Kong residents to achieve refugee standing was blocked by Senator Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican.
Just a few years in the past, the concept of political dissidents fleeing Hong Kong, a former British colony that reverted to Chinese language rule in 1997, would have appeared unimaginable. Hong Kong’s greater than 7 million folks have one of many world’s highest per capita incomes and luxuriate in political liberties which can be unknown in mainland China.
However after Xi Jinping grew to become China’s high chief in late 2012, Beijing started to rule over Hong Kong with an more and more heavy hand. The nationwide safety legislation, imposed after huge and generally violent pro-democracy protests swept town in 2019, has prompted some activists to leave. Most departed in a lot much less dramatic style, boarding a airplane for Europe or North America; others, fearing arrest on the airport, took to the ocean.
In August, weeks after the 5 males made it to Taiwan, 12 different Hong Kong activists had been caught by the Chinese language Coast Guard whereas attempting to achieve the island. Most of them had been arrested in Hong Kong and had been leaving to keep away from trial. They had been held for months in mainland China with out costs; in December, 10 of the activists obtained prison sentences starting from seven months to a few years, two of them for organizing the escape try and the others for illegally crossing a boundary. Two different activists, each juveniles, had been returned to Hong Kong.
Different nations have additionally taken in Hong Kong activists. Canada has granted asylum to 14 folks from Hong Kong for the reason that finish of December, in accordance with an announcement from the New Hong Kong Cultural Membership Canada, a volunteer group that assists political refugees from town. In October, Hong Kong’s authorities protested Germany’s granting of asylum to an indication chief who confronted costs of rioting.
Britain is providing a new visa to Hong Kong residents that will allow the hundreds of thousands of them who had been born earlier than the 1997 handover to ultimately turn into British residents.
Amy Qin and Amy Chang Chien contributed reporting.