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OPINION: Sen. Hirono vs the Xenophobes

April 15, 2013, 5:06 PM HST
* Updated April 15, 5:32 PM
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Sen. Mazie Hirono whipped out some nifty legislation on Thursday that would be a super-cheap boost to the Hawaii tourism industry.

Under her bill, residents of Hong Kong would join the US Visa-Waiver program, giving them easy access to Hawaii’s shores (as opposed to wading through days or weeks of paperwork and approvals).

If Hirono had her way, this same privilege would actually be granted not only to people in Hong Kong, but to residents of mainland China as well.

Given that millions of Chinese are beginning to acquire enough disposable income to venture beyond their country’s borders, it would seem like a no-brainer to lure as many of them here as possible.

But alas, Congress is still home to a few bone-headed xenophobes (often the same crowd intent on building the “Great Wall of Mexico”). They claim that granting Chinese citizens ready access to our shores would make us more vulnerable to Chinese spies.

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Because you know, spies can’t get in right now in unless they fill out a lengthy immigration form.

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Hirono is of course well aware that pushing for a tourism free-for-all with China would be a hard sell. As a member of the House of Representatives, Hirono attempted such a move before, but it failed to see the light of day.

This time, the first term Senator is wisely offering up a more petite, digestible piece of legislation.

Hong Kong skyline, by night.

Hong Kong skyline, by night.

By loosening restrictions on the residents of mostly-democratic Hong Kong, Hawaii and other tourism-dependent states will get a quick boost from some of the richest people on the planet, without raising the eyebrows of politicians who still view China as more threat than opportunity.

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This should also allow Hong Kong’s residents to demonstrate that not everyone who speaks Cantonese works in counter-intelligence.

Smart move, senator.

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