About 10,000 Hong Kong passport holders currently in Australia will be offered the chance to apply for permanent residence as concerns continue over China’s imposition of a national security law.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Thursday said his country had suspended its extradition treaty with Hong Kong and extended visas for the territory’s residents.
An Australian immigration minister, Alan Tudge, said in an interview on Sunday that Hongkongers in Australia would be able to apply for permanent residence once their current visas expired.
Mr Tudge told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that applicants would have to pass character and security tests before gaining permanent residency.
He said: “So it’s not automatic. But it’s certainly an easier pathway to permanent residency and of course once you’re a permanent resident, there’s then a pathway to citizenship there.”
“If people are genuinely persecuted and they can prove that case, then they can apply for one of our humanitarian visas in any case.”
Mr Morrison announced on Thursday a range of visas that will be extended from two to five years and offer pathways to permanent residency visas.
The move comes after China bypassed Hong Kong’s Legislative Council to impose the sweeping security legislation without public consultation.
The national security law prohibits what Beijing views as secessionist, subversive or terrorist activities or as foreign intervention in Hong Kong affairs.
Under the law, police now have sweeping powers to conduct searches without warrants and order internet service providers and platforms to remove messages deemed to be in violation of the legislation.
Mr Morrison’s announcement follows a similar move in the UK, with the country extending residency rights for up to three million Hongkongers, while Canada has suspected its extradition treaty with Hong Kong and is looking at other options including migration.
Australia last offered “safe haven” visas to Chinese people after the bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protesters around Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in 1989.
More than 27,000 Chinese students in Australia at the time were allowed to stay permanently.