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Hong Kong protesters wave American flags outside the U.S. Consulate in Hong Kong in 2019. Photo: Kyle Lam/Bloomberg via Getty Images

President Joe Biden on Thursday directed the Department of Homeland Security to defer the removal of Hong Kong residents currently in the U.S. for 18 months, offering a "safe haven" to those who fear returning home.

Why it matters: The move, which could potentially extend the stay of thousands of Hong Kongers in the U.S., is the latest step the Biden administration has taken in response to Beijing's crackdown on democracy in the semi-autonomous territory.

  • The program will be accessible to the vast majority of these residents and will allow them to seek employment authorization through U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, according to DHS.
  • Thousands of people have already left Hong Kong to travel to the United Kingdom — which once controlled the territory — after the British government offered a similar "safe haven" and path to citizenship for millions of Hong Kongers.

The big picture: The Chinese government imposed a sweeping national security law on Hong Kong last year after the eruption of pro-democracy protests, eroding the autonomy and political freedoms that its residents once enjoyed. The first protester convicted under the law was sentenced to nine years in prison last week.

  • The U.S. has retaliated by suspending its extradition treaty with Hong Kong and imposing sanctions on officials responsible for the crackdown.
  • Last month, the U.S. issued an advisory warning to businesses about the risks of doing business in Hong Kong. China sanctioned a number of Americans and organizations in response.

What they're saying: "Over the last year, the PRC has continued its assault on Hong Kong's autonomy, undermining its remaining democratic processes and institutions, imposing limits on academic freedom, and cracking down on freedom of the press," Biden said in a statement.

  • "Offering safe haven for Hong Kong residents who have been deprived of their guaranteed freedoms in Hong Kong furthers United States interests in the region. The United States will not waver in our support of people in Hong Kong," he added.

What to watch: Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) introduced a bill last year that would grant full asylum to certain Hong Kong residents.

  • "Today’s move is a solid step, but we need to go further," Sasse said in a statement. "We need to offer full asylum to Hong Kongers who flee Chairman Xi’s brutal oppression."

Go deeper

Wall Street's wobble disrupts record stock market boom

People walk by the New York Stock Exchange earlier this month. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Monday interrupted a stretch of calm amid the historic stock market boom underway since March 2020.

Driving the news: Jitters were apparent nearly everywhere.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Congressman criminally charged with lying to feds

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry. Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.) has been indicted on charges he falsified records and lied to federal investigators probing an illegal foreign donation scheme, the Justice Department announced on Tuesday.

Driving the news: DOJ says a Fortenberry associate, who later cooperated with investigators, informed him he'd likely received illegal donations from an intermediary for a foreign national, but that Fortenberry denied any knowledge of such a scheme when contacted by the FBI.

"Assassin's Creed," but for schools

"Viking Age: Discovery Tour." Image via Ubisoft

For the third time since 2018, Ubisoft is releasing a nonviolent version of its latest “Assassin’s Creed” game as part of a unique effort to turn one of the medium’s most popular series into an educational tool.

Driving the news:Viking Age: Discovery Tour” transforms last year’s “Assassin’s Creed Valhalla” from a bloody 150-hour game about Viking conquest in 9th century England into a peaceful four-hour game about merchants and monks.