Canberra/Hong Kong: The Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison announced, ‘I welcome the 10,000 Hong Kong citizens, who are on visas in Australia, as also other Hong Kongers wanting residency in the country.’ Australia becomes the fourth nation in the world to openly offer citizenship to Hong Kong citizens after China imposed the sweeping new national security law. Previously, the UK, Taiwan and even Japan showed a willingness to accept the Hong Kongers into their country. Along with the offer for citizenship to Hong Kongers, an international effort is being made to add pressure on China. Also, Australia’s Foreign Secretary informed that the ‘Five Eyes’ had discussed on the topic as well.
Last week, Chinese President Xi Jinping signed the bill for the new National Security Law on Hong Kong. On July 1, the law came into effect. Under the law, any act against China will be deemed as unlawful or anti-national and has the provision for life imprisonment to such offenders. Associated agencies have been given the power to run trials for such cases secretly. Chinese and Hong Kong agencies have made several arrests under the law, and action against them is said to have already commenced.
While China may have decided to remain firm on the imposition of the new law, the international community has hinted at significantly mounting pressure on China. The Australian Prime Minister’s announcement is part of the strategy. ‘China’s imposition of the new law on Hong Kong, the fundamental state of the region has changed. The changes have forced Australia to amend its laws and refugee policy. Australia not just has the right but also a responsibility to do so,’ Scott Morrison said as he justified the latest decision.
Currently, 10,000 Hong Kong citizens are in Australia on temporary student or work visas. The Australian Prime Minister announced extended their visas by five years. After that period elapses, these people can apply for Australian citizenship. He further clarified that the apart from that, Hong Kong citizens who wish to establish a new business or life in Australia in the near future, were also welcome to the country. Prior to this, Australia had offered its citizenship to Chinese nationals in 1989, after the Chinese Communist Party’s brutal crackdown at the Tiananmen Square.
Australian Prime Minister rebuked China and said, ‘I am aware that in the present condition, an influx of Hong Kongers will not come to Australia due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Even so, if any Hong Kong citizen wanting to come to Australia, was blocked by China that would be regrettable.’ Along with an offer for citizenship to the Hong Kongers, Prime Minister Morrison also informed suspending the extradition treaty with China on the city.
As Australia initiated the action, other leading nations of the international community have also hinted at stepping up pressure on China over the new Hong Kong law. The Five Eyes group, which was established with lead from the US, recently conducted a meeting where the Hong Kong issue was discussed, informed Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne. At the same time, New Zealand has announced it was reconsidering its relationship with China. Since New Zealand is also a member nation of the Five Eyes, the information confirms Morrison’s statement. The Five Eyes alliance, which was established after the end of World War II, comprises of the US, the UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.
Australia’s decision on Hong Kong has drawn a severe reaction from China. ‘The Australian Prime Minister’s announcement is a violation of the fundamental principles of international relations. China reserves the right to respond to the decision. Australia will have to face serious consequences for it. The international community’s attempts to repress China will never succeed,’ Chinese Foreign Ministry threatened.
Furthermore, the Prime Ministers of Japan and Australia held important talks on the growing activities of China. On Thursday, the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his Australian counterpart Scott Morrison held the discussions via video conference, a Japanese spokesperson informed. Sources said the talks covered China’s growing aggression in the South China Sea as well as the Pacific region, Hong Kong and cooperation on policy between the two nations.