Australia is probably the only country that has stood up to increasing Chinese belligerence purely on account of democratic values and respect for liberties. While other countries of the democratic world, such as Japan and the US have geopolitical interests involved, Australia’s PM Scott Morrison has stood up to Chinese aggression only because he supports the principles of a rules-based international order.
Therefore, as China has clamped down upon Hong Kongers in order to brutally enforce the National Security Law, Canberra hasn’t disappointed. Notwithstanding Chinese threats, Australia has offered a safe haven to Hong Kongers who have been robbed off their liberties and freedoms by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
Morrison has announced some key measures for Hong Kong after China’s arbitrary move of enforcing the National Security Law in the city.
Canberra has decided to suspend extradition agreement with Hong Kong and at the same time extend temporary visas for Hong Kongers who are currently in Australia.
Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that the decision to suspend the extradition agreement was taken because the imposition of the new security law “constitutes a fundamental change of circumstances.” Australia is applying the principle of Clausula rebus sic stantibus– a legal doctrine that allows repudiation of a contract or a treaty because of ‘fundamental change of circumstances.’
Speaking at a press conference, he added, “Australia is adjusting its laws, our sovereign laws, our sovereign immigration programme, things that we have responsibility for and jurisdiction over, to reflect the changes that we’re seeing take place there.”
Morrison has declared that about 10,000 Hong Kong citizens with temporary or student visas can now stay back in Australia for an additional five years regardless of the expiry date on their operational visas.
Australia is also opening itself for easier Permanent Residency as far as future Hong Kong visa applicants are concerned. Canberra will now provide a five-year visa for temporary skilled applicants that will offer a path for Permanent Residency, provided the Hong Kongers meet certain conditions.
Morrison has also opened up Australia to Hong Kong businesses. The Prime Minister said, “We are a great immigration nation.” He added, “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.”
Australia is irked by how Beijing has destroyed the democratic system of Hong Kong. Shortly before Morrison made a slew of announcements regarding the so-called semi-autonomous city of China, Australia’s Foreign Ministry also issued a warning to its citizens in Hong Kong about the risks of arbitrary arrests under the new legislation.
Canberra says that the National Security Law is “vaguely defined”, and the Foreign Ministry has urged its citizens to “reconsider your need to remain in Hong Kong” if they have a concern about the new law. In a notice released on Thursday, the Ministry has also apprehended that the new security law could be “interpreted broadly” and lead to Australian nationals getting transferred to mainland China for prosecution without any due process.
Meanwhile, China has reacted sharply and has made some more threats. Beijing has labelled Morrison’s announcements as violations of “fundamental principles of international relations.” Chinese wolf-warriors are trying to do what they do best- bully others.
Zhao Lijian, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson said, “China… reserves the right to take further reactions, all consequences will be borne by Australia.” He added, “Any attempts to suppress China will never succeed.”
But then this is what China has been doing all this while- issuing threats of ‘further reactions’ and ‘consequences’ if Australia speaks up against Chinese excesses. However, Canberra hasn’t backed out.
Australia has been relentlessly demanding an independent international investigation into the origins of the Coronavirus Pandemic, speaking up for Taiwan’s WHO membership, ganging up with the US in the South China Sea and now creating a safe haven for Hong Kongers.
Meanwhile, China has emptied its entire ammunition. It has imposed steep tariffs on barley imports from Australia. Beijing has also banned four Australian abattoirs and has even advised its citizens and students to avoid Australia.
But with the bold Hong Kong move, Morrison has given a loud and clear message to Xi Jinping- ‘Australia doesn’t care for Chinese threats’. China can keep threatening of ‘consequences’ and ‘further action’ but Canberra has made it a point to stand up for the democratic world and renounce Beijing’s whimsical behaviour.