Australia offers safe haven to Hong Kongers, sparking China fury

Thousands of people have been arrested during protests in Hong Kong, with activists accusing the police of heavy-handedness. (AFP)
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Updated 09 July 2020

Australia offers safe haven to Hong Kongers, sparking China fury

  • In addition to extending the visas of 10,000 Hong Kongers already in the country, Australia threw open the door to thousands more wanting to start a new life Down Under
  • Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the decisions were taken in response to China’s imposition last week of a tough new security law in Hong Kong

SYDNEY: Australia offered pathways to permanent residency for thousands of people from Hong Kong on Thursday in response to China’s crackdown on dissent, drawing a furious reply from Beijing.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said his government was suspending its extradition agreement with the city and, in addition to extending the visas of 10,000 Hong Kongers already in the country, threw open the door to thousands more wanting to start a new life Down Under.
Morrison said the decisions were taken in response to China’s imposition last week of a tough new security law in Hong Kong, which he said “constitutes a fundamental change of circumstances” for the semi-autonomous territory.
“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 during a press conference.
Beijing shot back, condemning the Australian announcements as violations of “fundamental principles of international relations.”
“China... reserves the right to take further reactions, all consequences will be borne by Australia,” warned Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian.
“Any attempts to suppress China will never succeed.”
Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said China’s moves in Hong Kong were discussed earlier Thursday with Australia’s so-called “Five Eyes” security partners — New Zealand, the United States, Britain, and Canada.
The new law, which followed sometimes-violent pro-democracy protests, is the most radical change in Hong Kong’s freedoms since Britain handed the city back to China in 1997 under an agreement designed to preserve its way of life for 50 years.
China has bristled at widespread global criticism of the law.
Beijing in recent months has imposed tariffs on some Australian imports and impeded trade in other key commodities in response to Australian steps to counter Chinese interference in the country.
China, Australia’s biggest trade partner and a competitor for influence in the Pacific, was notably infuriated when Canberra led calls for a probe into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic.
New Zealand is also reviewing its relationship with Hong Kong because of the new law, Foreign Minister Winston Peters said Thursday, “including extradition arrangements, controls on exports of strategic goods, and travel advice.”
Canada has also suspended its extradition treaty with Hong Kong, while the British government has offered more than three million Hong Kongers a broader path to citizenship.
Morrison brushed aside questions about whether the challenge over Hong Kong would likely lead to further Chinese retaliation.
“We will make decisions about what’s in our interests, and we will make decisions about our laws and our adviseries, and we will do that rationally and soberly and consistently,” he said.
He also appeared undaunted by China’s angry response, issuing a joint statement with Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe following a video summit hours later challenging Beijing’s moves to assert control over the strategic South China sea.
In a thinly veiled reference to China, the two leaders condemned “recent negative developments” in the region, including the militarization of disputed islands and the “dangerous and coercive use” of naval ships and “maritime militia” against other nations’ vessels.
Under the measures announced Thursday, 10,000 Hong Kong citizens and residents in Australia on student or temporary work visas will be allowed to remain in the country for an additional five years, with a pathway to permanent residency.
The program was also offered to Hong Kong entrepreneurs or skilled workers who wish to relocate to Australia in the future.
“If there are businesses that wish to relocate to Australia, creating jobs, bringing investment, creating opportunities for Australia, then we will be very proactive in seeking to encourage that,” he said.
The move echoed Australia’s response to the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown when Canberra offered refuge to thousands of Chinese students and their families.
But it contrasts with the current conservative government’s policy of restricting immigration.
Morrison said he did not expect a rush of new visa applications from Hong Kongers, in part due to coronavirus travel restrictions.
And he added that it would be “very disappointing” if China tried to prevent Hong Kong citizens from taking advantage of the offer.


Militants kill two police in Kashmir ahead of India’s Independence Day

Updated 10 min 17 sec ago

Militants kill two police in Kashmir ahead of India’s Independence Day

  • Authorities said the militants had been identified
  • The attack comes days after the first anniversary of the revocation of Kashmir’s constitutional autonomy

SRINAGAR: Militants attacked a police team in Kashmir on Friday, killing two officers and wounding one despite tight security in the disputed Muslim-majority region ahead of India’s Independence Day.
A group of militants opened fire on the police team that was on duty in the Nowgam area of Srinagar city, the chief of police in Kashmir, Vijay Kumar, told Reuters.
“We had inputs that militants may carry out attack and were alert,” said Kumar. “They came through a narrow lane and fired indiscriminately.”
He said the militants had been identified and vowed to “neutralize them” soon. The area had been cordoned off searches were going on, he said.
The attack comes days after the first anniversary of the revocation of Kashmir’s constitutional autonomy, a reform the Indian government said would promote the region’s development by drawing it closer to the rest of the country.
But many people in Kashmir saw the loss of special autonomy as another step in the erosion of the rights of Muslims by the Hindu-nationalist government. The government rejects that.
Kashmir has been disputed by India and neighboring Pakistan since the end of British colonial rule in 1947. Both countries claim it in full but rule it in part.
More than 50,000 people have been killed in more than three decades of insurgency in Kashmir that India accuses Pakistan of fueling by supporting Muslim militant groups fighting India’s security forces in its part of the divided region.
Pakistan says it only offers political support to its fellow Muslims in the Himalayan region.
India celebrates Independence Day on Saturday.