Joe Biden ran as the principled candidate. He promised to restore American norms and bring dignity back to politics. He called for equality and human rights, both at home and abroad. Now he must prove he means it. In his first 100 days, the president-elect should correct one of Donald Trump’s most inexcusable oversights: He should grant emergency visas to Hong Kong freedom fighters and Uyghur Muslims, both of whom the Chinese state is persecuting mercilessly.
Under a national-security law passed last year, Chinese authorities are treating advocates of freedom and democracy in Hong Kong as dangerous criminals. The law restricts free expression and political dissent, and violates the “one country, two systems” arrangement that has prevailed since the British handover in 1997. The law’s defenders insist it is necessary for maintaining order and stability. But it is the stability of tyranny, not harmony.
China’s treatment of its Uyghur Muslim population is even more appalling. In the Xinjiang province, more than 1 million Uyghurs have been detained in “re-education centers,” which critics contend are really concentration camps. Detainees suffer “indoctrination, physical abuse, and sterilization,” their culture and identity trampled. American officials, including Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, have spoken out against Beijing’s inhumanity. Though some lawmakers have attempted to address the issue, Congress has stopped short of welcoming refugees, thanks in large part to the efforts of Senator Ted Cruz (R., Texas). The chief executive can and should do more.
When the West opened up to China, the hope was that political liberalization would follow economic liberalization. That has not happened. Instead, the free nations of the world, led by the U.S., face a Chinese Communist Party hell-bent on maintaining its authoritarian political system by any means necessary. Joe Biden must recognize China for what it is: a transgressor of both international law and human rights. Beijing cannot be an international partner in good standing under its current leadership.
Unfortunately, many Western elites are complicit in China’s brutality, particularly the leaders of multinational corporations. New evidence suggests “Uyghurs are working in factories that are in the supply chains of at least 82 well-known global brands in the technology, clothing and automotive sectors, including Apple, BMW, Gap, Huawei, Nike, Samsung, Sony and Volkswagen.” Since many of these companies embrace calls for social-justice stakeholder capitalism, their duplicity in overlooking actual injustice — slave labor — is hypocritical and unconscionable. We cannot rely on woke capital to stand up to the CCP. The task falls on the Biden administration, unlikely as that may seem.
While combating China requires a holistic strategy, the granting of emergency visas is relatively simple and highly effective.
First, it would force the Chinese state to confront the embarrassing political reality that many of its most capable and engaged citizens do not wish to live under its rule. Second, it would undermine the Chinese economy and bolster ours by facilitating an inflow of labor and capital. Third, it would strengthen our own civic traditions: Remember that during the most tumultuous days of the Hong Kong protests, many pro-democracy activists proudly waved the American flag. Fourth, and most important, it is simply the right thing to do.
America has always viewed itself as a “city upon a hill.” But when it comes to Asian refugees, we often fall short of this lofty image. It is imperative we change this now. Given Biden’s perceived weak stance on China, it is even more important for his administration to set the tone early: America does not tolerate bullies. Principle and expediency agree. Biden should direct his State Department to create a safe, rapid, and legal path to residency for anyone persecuted by the CCP on political or ethnic-religious grounds.
Biden has an opportunity to right the ship of state and restore America’s moral standing in the world. Surely the place to start is by lending a helping hand to those yearning for freedom. Mr. President-elect, the time to make common cause with China’s oppressed is now.