Every once in a while, something truly momentous happens, something that rises above the level of day-to-day news and carves out a place in the history books. For decades, Hong Kong has been a place that would seem very familiar to Americans: freedom of speech and religion, the press, common law legal traditions, and no detainment without cause. Businesses blossomed and enjoyed a truly open market. What makes it so remarkable is that it’s been part of China since 1997, an oasis of liberty under the one-country-two-systems deal made to last for 50 years when the UK returned their colony to China.
But no longer.
On June 30, China’s sweeping so-called National Security Law was brought into effect, ending an era of Hong Kong. The law sets up a policing office in Hong Kong answerable to the Communist government in Beijing, opens the door for extradition to mainland China and signals the erosion of basic principles like habeas corpus. “Subversion” is criminalized, but so far that’s been code for we’ll-do-whatever-we-like, to the extent that when protesters held up blank pieces of paper to call out the censorship of protest slogans, they were warned that it could breach the law.
Mike Pompeo and the State Department have recognized that the long standing policy dealing with Hong Kong differently than the mainland is no more. Sanctions are being applied and extradition treaties ended, but China has shown that they will not be dissuaded.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has promised to allow the almost 3 million Hongkongers who hold or are eligible for British national status(all those born before the 1997 return of Hong Kong to China) to come to the UK for five years and then be placed on a pathway to citizenship.
The United States should follow suit, with a broad policy of accepting up to a roughly equal number of Hongkongers who choose to flee their new Communist regime and turning the situation to our advantage. Some may balk at this. During an enormous and still worsening health and economic crisis, why should we open the door to thousands or potentially millions of newcomers?
Even those who are more skeptical of large-scale immigration ought to consider the specific nature of the situation here.
The last time that America took in a surge of refugees was during the exodus from Syria during the early days of their ongoing civil war, accepting 15,479 people in 2015 and totaling about 20,000 to date. Whether the threat of allowing terrorists was over-hyped among Syrians is beyond the scope of this piece, but any similar concerns simply disappear with Hong Kongers.
And for those concerned about immigrants taking jobs, which may be a dubious claim generally, it should be noted that Hong Kongers are more educated than the average immigrant and about on par with Americans generally. This comparison also holds true for their per-capita productivity.
Those concerned that Hong Kongers won’t learn English and integrate into American society may be happy to learn that since, like us, Hong Kong was once a British colony, English is an official language, co-equal with Chinese. Students learn it in the public schools, and most develop proficiency.
Of course, it can be hard to predict which segments of society are most likely to come; will it be the poorer, who have less to lose? Will it be the richer, who have more resources to use? Regardless, given that the overall pool of people have at least basic education and experience in an industrialized society, the likelihood is that any given subset of the Hongkongers will be able to integrate quickly into broader American society.
Our current circumstances bear a striking historical resemblance to our acceptance of Cuban refugees in the Cold War. Like the Hongkongers, they fled during and after a Communist takeover. The Cuban refugees not only integrated into American society, but have helped carry the message of anti-communism for decades later and voted Republican to boot.
If we open our doors to those fleeing the Communist menace, we can gain educated, skilled people—future Americans—who will serve as an enduring reminder of the peril, promise and necessity of freedom.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.