Monday, June 14

National security law: Australia suspends Hong Kong extradition treaty

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China’s new national security law “undermines” Hong Kong’s current freedoms says Canberra

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

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the new law undermined “Hong Kong’s own basic law” and the territory’s current level of autonomy from Beijing.

Canada and the UK have also recently suspended extradition agreements.

Australia also offered to extend visas by five years for Hong Kong residents currently in the country.

This would enable a pathway to permanent residency for about 10,000 Hong Kong residents currently working and studying in Australia, Mr Morrison said.

He said Australia had already formally notified Hong Kong and advised the Chinese authorities on the treaty change.

China pushed through the wide-ranging law last week which critics say makes it easier to punish protesters and critics of the Chinese government.

Hong Kong’s government says the law is required to bring order to a city that saw mass pro-democracy protests last year that often turned violent.

As the extent of the law’s reach is still uncertain, critics have said it could also lead to foreign nationals being arbitrarily detained in Hong Kong.

That has led to Australia, and other nations, upgrading their travel advice to citizens in Hong Kong. More than 100,000 Australians are in Hong Kong.

“You may be at increased risk of detention on vaguely defined national security grounds. You could break the law without intending to. If you’re concerned about the new law, reconsider your need to remain in Hong Kong,” said the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Mr Morrison said his government, along with others “have been very consistent in expressing our concerns about the imposition of the national security law on Hong Kong”.

Australia’s visa offer was also aimed at enticing Hong Kong businesses to relocate to Australia if they “become footloose as a result of the changes”‘ he said.

Hong Kong is a former British colony and was handed back to China in 1997.

Under the arrangement, Hong Kong was allowed to have certain freedoms for 50 years, setting it apart from the Chinese mainland.

However the UK, and other Western nations say China’s new law directly threatens those freedoms and rights.

Last week, the UK offered resettlement to up three million Hong Kong residents.

China has criticised the UK’s offer, accusing it of “gross interference” in its domestic affairs.

Australia’s announcement could again aggravate tensions with China, its biggest trading partner.

Bilateral relations have soured further this year after Australia called for a global investigation into the origins of Covid-19. This has been viewed as the catalyst for China levelling sanctions on Australian exports.

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