Australia halts extradition agreement with Hong Kong, extends visas

By Shannon Jenkins

Friday July 10, 2020

Prime Minister Scott Morrison (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)

Australia has suspended its extradition agreement with Hong Kong in response to a new national security law imposed by China.

In a statement released on Thursday, the prime minister said the federal government “remains deeply concerned about China’s imposition of a broad national security law on Hong Kong”.

“The national security law erodes the democratic principles that have underpinned Hong Kong’s society and the One Country, Two Systems framework,” Scott Morrison said.

“It constitutes a fundamental change of circumstances in respect to our extradition agreement with Hong Kong. As a result, we have today taken steps to suspend our extradition agreement. We will continue to monitor developments in Hong Kong closely.”

The new law passed by China criminalises “secession, subversion, organisation and perpetration of terrorist activities, and collusion with a foreign country or with external elements to endanger national security”.

At a press conference Morrison said the move to suspend the extradition agreement reflected the “shared view of many countries” that the law undermines Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy guaranteed in the Sino-British Joint Declaration.

“Australia is adjusting its laws, our sovereign laws, our sovereign immigration program, things that we have responsibility for and jurisdiction over, to reflect the changes that we’re seeing take place there,” he said.

He announced new visa arrangements for people from Hong Kong who are currently in Australia. Under the arrangements, temporary graduate and skilled workers would be offered five extra years of work rights in Australia, with a pathway to permanent residency at the end of that period.

Students would be eligible for a five-year graduate visa from the conclusion of their studies, also with a pathway to residency.

Future Hong Kong applicants for temporary skilled visas would receive a five-year visa, based on meeting the updated skills lists and Labour Market Testing requirements.

Existing arrangements would continue to apply for applicants who study and work in regional areas “to help address skills shortages in those areas”, with pathways to permanent residency after three years.

Morrison said there were roughly 10,000 temporary skilled, temporary graduate and student visa holders in Australia who would be eligible for the arrangements, “with a further 2500 outside Australia and 1250 applications on hand”.

He noted the government also hoped to persuade some of the more than 1000 international companies with regional headquarters based in Hong Kong to come to Australia. The national cabinet on Friday would discuss ways for businesses to relocate, “creating jobs, bringing investment, creating opportunities for Australia”, he said.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has also updated its travel advice to warn Australians living in Hong Kong in light of the security law.

“Under the law, you could be deported or face possible transfer to mainland China for prosecution under mainland law,” the new travel advice states.

“The full extent of the law and how it will be applied is not yet clear. You could break the law without intending to.

“If you’re concerned about the new law, reconsider your need to remain in Hong Kong.”

Read more: The Briefing: Australia as a safe haven for Hong Kong?

The Chinese embassy in Canberra has slammed the federal government for “meddling” in its affairs.

“China strongly deplores and opposes the groundless accusations and measures announced by the Australian government with regard to Hong Kong, which is a serious violation of international law and basic norms governing international relations, and a gross interference in China’s internal affairs,” it said in a statement.

“Hong Kong affairs are China’s internal affairs. The Australian side has been clanking that they oppose ‘foreign interference’. However, they have blatantly interfered in China’s internal affairs by making irresponsible remarks on Hong Kong-related issues.

“Its hypocrisy and double standard is exposed in full.”

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