Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced Australia has suspended its extradition agreement with Hong Kong following the implementation of national security laws by China while offering thousands of Hong Kongers an avenue out of the city.
“We have agreed to announce that that national security law constitutes a fundamental change of circumstances in respect to our extradition agreement with Hong Kong,” he said at a press conference on Thursday.
The national security laws implemented by Beijing on June 30 target subversion, secession and terrorism following a period of growing unrest in the special administrative region, sparked by an extradition bill proposed by Beijing which was eventually scrapped following months of protests in 2019.
Since its introduction, pro-democracy protesters have been charged for holding flags, posters and pamphlets.
Australia’s extradition treaty meant it cooperated with requests from Hong Kong to extradite individuals wanted over criminal offences.
Yet due to fears they will now not be guaranteed a fair trial under the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ framework, Mr Morrison has suspended the agreement.
“It undermines... Hong Kong's own basic law and the high degree of autonomy guaranteed in the Sino-British Joint Declaration,” he added.
Last week Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made the same announcement, becoming the first leader from dozens of countries who have a similar arrangement with Hong Kong to do so.
Pathway to Australian citizenship for Hong Kongers
Mr Morrison also said Australia will offer visas to people in Hong Kong who feel threatened by the new national security laws.
Current and future students will be eligible for a five-year temporary graduate visa on the successful conclusion of their studies with a pathway to permanent residency, Acting Immigration Minister Alan Tudge said.
Temporary skilled visa holders from Hong Kong who are in Australia at the moment will be eligible for an additional five years in Australia, also with a pathway to permanent residency.
Future Hong Kong applicants for temporary skilled visas will also be eligible for a five-year visa, provided they meet existing criteria.
Mr Morrison said while the move wouldn’t mean “tens of thousands”of Hong Kongers would arrive in Australia, it would benefit a “modest” number.
Mr Tudge said there are currently about 4000 people arriving for either work or study from Hong Kong annually.
The Morrison government will also establish an incentive program for Hong Kong businesses to relocate to Australia, with pathways to permanent residency for their staff.
Earlier on Thursday, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s Smartraveller updated its advice to Australians on travel to Hong Kong, warning there was an “increased risk of detention on vaguely defined national security grounds”.
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