Editor’s note for Tuesday, October 27, 2020

A note from the editor of today's SupChina Access newsletter.

My thoughts today:

The South China Morning Post reports that “four Hong Kong activists entered the U.S. consulate” in Hong Kong earlier on Tuesday afternoon, and were “later rejected, but there was no official confirmation.” The incident “could have erupted into a major diplomatic row, had the would-be asylum seekers been accepted,” the SCMP adds.

The activists are not identified, though reportedly, “at least one of them faces charges stemming from last year’s anti-government protests.”

Another activist, the former convenor of pro-independence group Studentlocalism, Tony Chung, was earlier arrested “close to the U.S. Consulate General where he planned to seek asylum,” per the Hong Kong Free Press.

What’s going on behind the scenes? The scholar Sheena Greitens provides some context:

U.S. recently said it would include HK asylum claims in [its] formal refugee admissions program. Definitional note: asylum is typically claimed in U.S. (or at border); refugee admission is processed abroad. Similar standards, difference is location…

So why turn people away? [The U.S. is] likely worried HK consulate will become center of confrontation: police trying to prevent ppl from getting in; students/others trying increasingly desperate methods to gain access. Then subsequent diplomatic standoff to extricate people to U.S.

The U.S. could “also be concerned about China closing” its consulate in Hong Kong, if diplomatic tensions rise further.

“Asylum seekers from Hong Kong are the latest catalyst for deteriorating relations between Beijing and Western countries,” the New York Times writes, citing diplomatic conflicts between China and the U.K., Germany, and Canada. The NYT also reveals that the U.S. government “has moved unusually quickly to grant asylum to at least two protesters who left Hong Kong late last year.”

Our word of the day is to seek asylum (避难 bìnàn).

—Lucas Niewenhuis and Jeremy Goldkorn