Durbin Calls for Senate Action to Protect Hong Kong Residents from Persecution

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, today participated in a hearing on the United States’ Hong Kong refugee policy. During the hearing, Durbin urged the Senate to immediately pass the bipartisan House-passed Hong Kong People’s Freedom and Choice Act, which would grant Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to Hong Kong residents currently in the U.S. and provide refugee protections to Hong Kong residents facing persecution. Durbin is a cosponsor of related Senate legislation, the bipartisan Hong Kong Safe Harbor Act, which would grant refugee status to Hong Kong residents at risk of persecution under the new China-imposed National Security Law.

“I believe that my colleagues on both sides of the aisle share my feelings about the crisis in Hong Kong.  The question is – what are we going to do about it?  As I have said many times, the Judiciary Committee should be about legislation, not lamentation,” Durbin said.  

Durbin also slammed Trump Administration policies that have put at risk Hong Kongers who are fleeing Chinese persecution, as well as thousands of other vulnerable refugees from around the world. 

“How many refugees has the United States admitted from Hong Kong in the last year?  Zero. The Trump Administration also has decimated legal protections for Hong Kongers and other innocent victims of persecution who flee to our borders seeking asylum,” Durbin continued. 

Since the enactment of the Refugee Act of 1980, the United States has resettled an average of more than 80,000 refugees per year.  However, in the midst of the worst refugee crisis in history, the Trump Administration has set record-low refugee admissions targets four years in a row, culminating in the lowest level in history this year – 15,000.  

Last week, the Trump Administration issued a new rule under which Hong Kongers could be denied asylum if they transit other countries on their way to the United States, if persecutors detained them for only brief periods, or if persecutors were not able to carry out their threats before the individual being persecuted fled to the United States.

Video of Durbin’s remarks in Committee is available here. 

Audio of Durbin’s remarks in Committee is available here. 

Footage of Durbin’s remarks in Committee is available here for TV Stations. 

In September, Durbin held a virtual meeting with Chicago area Hong Kong democracy activists to discuss the undermining of democracy, media freedom, and rule of law in Hong Kong.  Durbin is a cosponsor of the bipartisan Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019, which passed the Senate by unanimous consent last year. 

The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019 directs various departments to assess whether political developments in Hong Kong justify changing Hong Kong's unique treatment under U.S. law.  The legislation requires the Secretary of State to certify at least once a year that Hong Kong still retains enough autonomy to warrant the special U.S. trading consideration that bolsters its status as a world financial center.  It also provides sanctions against officials responsible for human rights violations in Hong Kong.