The US president on Thursday provided Hong Kong residents with a temporary “safe haven,” allowing Hong Kongers who are already present in the US to extend their stay.

“This action demonstrates President Joe Biden’s strong support for people in Hong Kong in the face of ongoing repression by the People’s Republic of China (PRC), and makes clear we will not stand idly by as the PRC breaks its promises to Hong Kong and to the international community,” White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement.

“Given the politically motivated arrests and trials, the silencing of the media, and the diminishing space for elections and democratic opposition, we will continue to take steps in support of people in Hong Kong,” she added.

Biden’s memorandum directs the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State to defer most deportations for 18 months.

The move marks the latest step the Biden administration has taken against, what the US says is Beijing’s actions to erode the rule of law in the territory and deteriorate the high level of autonomy it is supposed to enjoy under a pact that placed it under the Chinese control.

The US has imposed sanctions on Chinese officials and their allies in Hong Kong, particularly after China enacted a national security law meant to crack down on secessionism in Hong Kong, but which pro-democracy groups said is a thinly-veiled effort to quash dissent.

A former restaurant waiter was sentenced to nine years in prison last week under the controversial law, the first sentencing since the law went into effect.

The US has warned companies against doing business in Hong Kong amid the clampdown, saying they “face risks associated with electronic surveillance without warrants and the surrender of corporate and customer data to authorities.”

“The National Security Law and actions taken by PRC and Hong Kong authorities may negatively affect their staff, finances, legal compliance, reputation, and operations,” the US warned on July 16.

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