Australia steps up Hong Kong action in wake of China security law

PM Scott Morrison suspends extradition pact with territory and extends visas for Hong Kong people already in Australia.

    Australia has suspended its extradition law with Hong Kong and will offer sweetened visas to Hong Kong people already in the country following China's imposition of its national security law on the territory [Isaac Lawrence/AFP]
    Australia has suspended its extradition law with Hong Kong and will offer sweetened visas to Hong Kong people already in the country following China's imposition of its national security law on the territory [Isaac Lawrence/AFP]

    Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison has suspended the country's extradition agreement with Hong Kong and extended visas for an estimated 10,000 Hong Kong people already in Australia because of concerns about the impact of the national security law that China imposed on the territory 10 days ago.

    Morrison said the extradition pact was being suspended because the security legislation represents "a fundamental change in circumstance".

    The prime minister also said the visas of about 10,000 Hong Kong people already living in Australia would be extended by five years, and those on student or temporary work visas would be offered a pathway to permanent residency.

    "There will be citizens of Hong Kong who may be looking to move elsewhere, to start a new life somewhere else," Morrison said. It was not clear what Australia might offer to those people still in Hong Kong. 

    'Increased risk'

    The national security law - which bans what China calls secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces - was imposed on the eve of the anniversary of Hong Kong's return to Chinese rule in 1997. The move followed months of protests, some of which turned violent, over perceived mainland encroachment into the autonomy and freedoms that were agreed under the so-called "one country, two systems" framework.

    Protests on first day of Hong Kong's new security laws

    Taking to Twitter on Thursday morning, Australia's Foreign Minister Marise Payne said the legislation "undermines" the principle of "one country, two systems".

    Her comment followed discussions with the foreign ministers of the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States, and New Zealand. Winston Peters, New Zealand's foreign minister, later said the country was reviewing all its "relationship settings" with Hong Kong. 

    The UK has already said it will give about three million Hong Kong people the right to live in the country and provide them with a pathway to citizenship. Canada is also said to be mulling higher immigration and has already suspended its extradition treaty with Hong Kong. 

    Australia is also making a pitch for international financial services, media, and consulting businesses to relocate and said it would offer incentives and visa packages for staff to help with any move.

    "We want them to look to Australia, to come, to set up shop," said acting Immigration Minister Alan Tudge.

    The country also updated its travel advisory for Hong Kong, which is currently home to about 100,000 Australians. 

    The travel advice says Australians "may be at increased risk of detention on vaguely defined national security grounds".

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies