Australia joined Canada and suspended its extradition treaty with Hong Kong Wednesday, in the latest international rebuke to China over its new security law for the semi-autonomous Chinese city.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison also announced a five-year extension for current and future work visa holders. After that five-year period ends, those visa holders will be allowed to apply for permanent residency.
Hong Kong students who graduate in Australia will also be given the opportunity to stay for five years and seek permanent residency afterwards, he said.
“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,” Morrison said.
Morrison said there are 10,000 Hong Kong citizens in Australia on student visas or temporary work visas.
Australia also made a pitch for international financial services, consulting and media businesses with regional headquarters in Hong Kong to relocate to Australia, and said it would offer incentives and visa packages to relocate staff.
“We want them to look to Australia, to come, to set up shop,” said acting immigration minister Alan Tudge.
Canada was the first country to suspend its extradition deal with Hong Kong in the wake of China’s new law. The government has vowed to expand immigration for Hong Kong citizens, but has yet to provide specific details.
Britain, too, is extending residency rights for up to three million Hong Kongers eligible for British National Overseas passports, allowing them to live and work in the U.K. for five years.
Under the terms of the new law, anything Beijing deems as secession, subversion, terrorism or collusion with foreign forces will be punishable by life in prison. It also sets up Chinese law enforcement in Hong Kong and allows for anyone detained there to be extradited to the mainland.
Critics and a majority of the international community say the law effectively destroys the “one country, two systems” principle established when Hong Kong was handed over to China by Britain in 1997. The legally binding international treaty was set to last 50 years, until 2047.
The Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China, a group of 16 international legislators formed in June to co-ordinate a foreign approach to China, has urged member countries to suspend their extradition treaties with Hong Kong.
Besides Canada and Australia, seven countries represented in the alliance — the Czech Republic, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Britain and the United States — have such agreements. Nearly a dozen other countries, including India, Singapore and Malaysia, also have extradition deals with Hong Kong.
Canadian foreign affairs minister François-Philippe Champagne discussed Hong Kong and the security law in an overnight call with his counterparts in the “Five Eyes” group of nations — Australia, New Zealand, Britain and the U.S. — officials said Wednesday.
—With files from Global’s Amanda Connolly, the Associated Press and Reuters