Australia Suspends Hong Kong Extradition Agreement, Offers Eligible Hongkongers Safe Refuge

July 9, 2020 Updated: July 10, 2020

Australia has suspended its extradition agreement with Hong Kong and extended a hand to help Hong Kong residents who currently hold an Australian temporary work or student visa after the Chinese Communist Party imposed its National Security Law on the city, which had previously had a judicial system independent of the mainland’s totalitarian regime.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on July 9 that Australia had changed its policy settings to extend its offering to current temporary skilled visa holders by five years from today and also offer them a pathway to permanent residency at the extended visa period.

Speaking at a press conference, Morrison said: “Our government, together with other governments around the world, have been very consistent in expressing our concerns about the imposition of the National Security Law on Hong Kong. Today we have agreed to announce that the National Security Law constitutes a fundamental change of circumstances in respect to our extradition agreement with Hong Kong.”

Australia has formally notified Hong Kong and advised CCP officials of its decision to drop the extradition treaty.

Morrison added that Australia’s refugee and humanitarian program remained open for all Hong Kong residents to apply for, as it is for all people suffering oppression from persecution.

Students from Hong Kong will also be eligible for temporary graduate visas with the option for permanent residency at the end of that period.

“That means if you’re a current or future student, you will be able to stay for a total of five years once you’ve graduated with a pathway to permanent residency at the end of that period,” Morrison said.

The announcement affords protection to almost 10,000 visa holders currently in Australia. A further 2,500 Hongkongers currently outside Australia are also eligible for the visa extension. The government said that it had also already received 1,250 applications for visas.

Morrison acknowledged that many residents of Hong Kong may be looking to move their life and businesses overseas as a result of the CCP’s draconian security law.

“Australia has always been a very welcoming country to such people from all around the world,” he said. “We are a great immigration nation. I would argue we are the best.”

The decision comes with a warning for Australians not to travel to Hong Kong as the new law means foreigners can be extradited to the mainland on “vaguely defined national security grounds” and subject to the mainland’s justice system that is overseen by the communist party state.

It follows a similar advisory from DFAT earlier this week warning Australians not to travel to China.

The CCP recently introduced a national security law for Hong Kong, which DFAT described as “vaguely defined.”

This means that travellers could break the law without intending to.

Currently, Hong Kong police are arresting pro-democracy protesters for holding flags, posters, and pamphlets that support Hong Kong’s freedom from the CCP.

Many democracy groups have also been forced to disband under the threat of retaliation from the mainland communist authorities.

On Wednesday, the prime minister dismissed concerns that the CCP may retaliate over its decision to offer safe haven to Hong Kong citizens.

“They’re Australian sovereign issues. They aren’t about other countries; they’re about our country,” Morrison said. “So we’ll make decisions about our visa program and how we run that in accordance with the rules that we set.”

‘Five Eyes’ Countries to Back Freedom After Beijing Solidifies National Security Law

Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne spoke with her counterparts from the United States, United Kingdom, New Zealand, and Canada on July 9 to discuss Beijing’s recent actions in the former British colony of Hong Kong.

Payne wrote on Twitter that the member countries of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance had discussed matters of global security, including concerns that the CCP’s new law undermines the “One Country, Two Systems” policy and trust in international agreements.

Payne went on to say that the alliance “will work together for human rights and freedoms.”

After the announcement, Victorian Liberal Senator James Paterson shared a joint statement released by the prime minister, foreign affairs minister, and attorney-general about the extradition treaty on Twitter.

Labor MP Backs Government’s Decision

Labor MP and shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus said on Twitter that he backs the Morrison government’s decision to drop the Hong Kong extradition agreement.

“Suspending Australia’s extradition treaty with Hong Kong is the right call,” he said. “China’s move to effectively end Hong Kong’s independent legal status means it is no longer tenable for us to maintain a separate extradition treaty with Hong Kong.”

Follow Caden on Twitter: @cadenpearson