- Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the Australian government is considering providing safe asylum visas to Hong Kong residents.
- The UK announced on Wednesday that it will open up the possibility of naturalization for Hong Kong people holding a BNO passport.
- Morrison's announcement also coincided with the continued tension between Australia and China.
After the United Kingdom said it would provide citizenship for Hong Kong citizens holding a British National Overseas (BNO) Passport, the Australian government also sent a signal that it intends to provide visa convenience to Hongkongers who are worried about their own safety.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the Australian government is considering providing safe asylum visas to Hong Kong residents at risk due to the Hong Kong’s version of the National Security Act.
Morrison said on Thursday that the development of the situation in Hong Kong is “very worrying,” and the Australian Cabinet is actively considering the possibility of providing a safe haven to Hong Kong people.
“Once we make a final decision on the relevant measures, it will be announced,” Morrison told the media in Canberra, “If you ask me if you are stepping up preparations to provide support, the answer is yes.” However, Morrison did not disclose details.
Wednesday, the 23rd anniversary of the return of Hong Kong’s sovereignty, was also the first day of the implementation of the Hong Kong version of the National Security Law. Hundreds of people were arrested during the July 1st parade in Hong Kong.
The UK announced on Wednesday that it will open up the possibility of naturalization for Hong Kong people holding a BNO passport. This will involve hundreds of thousands of Hong Kong citizens. China has previously opposed this.
The Hong Kong version of the National Security Law, passed by the National People’s Congress, treats “secession” and “subversion” as criminal offenses.
Hongkongers broke out in to protests last year— and again this year— against Beijing’s weakening of Hong Kong’s freedoms and autonomy. The belief, at home and abroad, was that the central government was weakening its own “One Country, Two Systems” commitments.
Regional “Strategic Turn”
Morrison’s announcement also coincided with the continued tension between Australia and China, especially after Australia called for an independent investigation into the origin of the new coronavirus. Canberra accused China of conducting cyber attacks. China is Australia’s most important trading partner.
China accused Australia of spying and issued travel warnings to Chinese students and tourists going to Australia. Beijing has also imposed import sanctions on some Australian products, and sentenced an Australian citizen to death for drug trafficking.
Australian Defense Minister Linda Reynolds said in a public speech on Thursday that the region is facing “the most profound strategic turn since the end of World War II.” Sen. Reynolds added:
“Some countries are using compulsory tactics different from armed conflicts, such as cyber-attacks, foreign intervention, economic pressure, etc., in order to maximize the use of the gray area between peace and war. . . In this gray area, once the screws are tightened, the impact will become intervention, economic cooperation will become a threat, and investment may become a trap.”
Australia plans to increase defense spending by 40%, to AUD 270 billion, in the next 10 years, with a strategic focus on the Indo-Pacific region.