Posted on December 8, 2020

U.S. House Passes Bill Giving Hong Kong Residents Special Refugee Status

Naomi Xu Elegant, Fortune, December 8, 2020

The U.S. House of Representatives on Monday passed a bill to let residents of Hong Kong live and work in the U.S. through a form of humanitarian relief that’s reserved for people from regions struck by war, natural disaster, or other dire circumstances.

The bill aims “to protect Hong Kongers facing persecution under the Chinese government’s tightening grip” by allowing Hong Kong residents who have been “targeted for exercising their democratic freedoms” to seek refuge in the U.S., according to a Monday press release from Rep. Tom Malinowski (D–N.J.), one of the bill’s sponsors.

The act would allow Hong Kong residents who are already in the U.S. and who fear political persecution in Hong Kong to remain in the country. It would also expedite refugee applications from Hong Kong residents and exclude them from the U.S. government’s annual cap on refugee admissions, which the Trump administration cut to an all-time low earlier this year.

Malinowski and Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R–Ill.) introduced the legislation, titled the Hong Kong People’s Freedom and Choice Act, which must gain Senate approval and President Donald Trump’s signature before becoming law.


The bill grants Hong Kong residents Temporary Protected Status, a special U.S. immigration designation given to people from regions that are deemed unsafe.

There are currently ten countries on the TPS list: El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. The Trump administration last year declined to extend TPS to people from Venezuela, while a coalition of mostly Democrats proposed a bill to do so.

Hong Kong would be the wealthiest region by far to receive a TPS designation, with a gross domestic product per capita of roughly $49,000, more than ten times that of El Salvador, currently the country with the highest GDP per capita on the TPS list, according to World Bank data.