Australia suspends extradition treaty with Hong Kong

Beijing calls on Australia to stop interfering following response to China imposing new security law in territory

Australian prime minister Scott Morrison announced Australia has suspended its extradition policy with Hong Kong in light of recent changes to security laws. Photoraph:  David Gray/Getty Images

Australian prime minister Scott Morrison announced Australia has suspended its extradition policy with Hong Kong in light of recent changes to security laws. Photoraph: David Gray/Getty Images

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Australia said on Thursday it was suspending its extradition treaty with Hong Kong and announced measures to attract people and businesses from the Asian financial hub after Beijing imposed a new security law there.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the new national security law introduced last week in Hong Kong was a fundamental change of circumstances and Australia would suspend the extradition agreement.

“There will be citizens of Hong Kong who may be looking to move elsewhere, to start a new life somewhere else, to take their skills, their businesses,” Mr Morrison said.

China warned on Thursday that it reserves the right to take further action in response to Australia suspending its extradition treaty with Hong Kong.

A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman told reporters during a daily briefing that Beijing urged Australia to change course and stop interfering in China’s affairs.

New Zealand said it was also reviewing its relationship with Hong Kong due to the new security law, which means Hong Kong suspects can be sent for trial in Communist Party-controlled courts in mainland China.

Mr Morrison said Hong Kong students, graduates and workers in Australia on temporary visas will have the opportunity to stay and work for an extra five years and apply for permanent residency after that time.

There are 10,000 Hong Kong citizens in Australia on student visas or temporary work visas, with a further 2,500 outside Australia and 1,250 applications on hand, according to the government.

Future student visas would also be offered for five years, although Mr Morrison said they were “not expecting large numbers of applicants any time soon”.

Australia offered asylum to some 42,000 Chinese students who were in Australia after a violent crackdown on pro-democracy protests Tiananmen Square in 1989.

Business pitch

Australia also made a pitch for international financial services, consulting and media businesses with regional headquarters in Hong Kong to relocate to Australia.

“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,” said Mr Morrison.

The measures would be accommodated within Australia’s existing caps on permanent resident visas, and Hong Kong citizens could also apply to the humanitarian and refugee visa programme, he said.

Australia changed its travel advisory for Hong Kong, where around 100,000 Australians live and work, to say “reconsider your need to remain in Hong Kong” if they are concerned about the new law.

The travel advice for Hong Kong warns Australians “may be at increased risk of detention on vaguely defined national security grounds”.

Hong Kong’s new security law punishes acts of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison.

The new law has pushed China’s freest city onto a more authoritarian path and drawn condemnation from some Western governments, lawyers and rights groups.

Canada last week announced it would suspend its extradition treaty with Hong Kong in the wake of the legislation and could boost immigration from the former British colony. – Reuters