China is accusing Australia of “gross interference” and issued a warning if the country doesn’t stop “meddling” in its internal affairs.
The uproar comes after the Australian government gave a number of current visa holders from Hong Kong a five-year extension, as well as offering them a path to permanent residency. The government also suspended an extradition treaty with Hong Kong.
“If you’re a temporary graduate or skilled visa holder, your visa will be extended to provide an additional five years from today, in addition to the time you’ve already been in Australia, with a pathway to permanent residency at the end of that period,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters.
“And we will also provide a five-year visa with a pathway to permanent residency for future Hong Kong applicants for temporary skilled visas, subject to meeting an updated skills list and appropriate labor marking testing.”
The blowback from China was swift, with the Chinese embassy in Canberra saying Australia is "lifting a rock only to hit its own feet."
“The Chinese government remains firm in its resolve to safeguard national sovereignty, security and development interests, and to oppose any foreign interference in Hong Kong affairs,” the statement said. “We urge the Australian side to immediately stop meddling in Hong Kong affairs and China’s internal affairs under any pretext or in any way. Otherwise it will lead to nothing but lifting a rock only to hit its own feet.”
The Australian announcement came in response to China imposing a harsh new security law in Hong Kong.
The government said almost 10,000 temporary skilled, graduate and student visa holders in Australia would be eligible for the special arrangements, along with a further 2,500 outside Australia and 1,250 applications on hand. There are also opportunities for future applicants and attempts to attract entrepreneurs.
Morrison said Australia would also suspend its extradition treaty with Hong Kong – following a similar move by Canada – because it believed the national security law “constitutes a fundamental change of circumstances”.
To encourage applicants to study and work in regional areas, Australia would offer express pathways to permanent residency after three years.
The government would also seek to attract export-orientated Hong Kong-based businesses to move to Australia, particularly where they had a strong potential for future growth and employment of Australians. (The Guardian)
"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," Morrison said.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian warned that "attempts to suppress China will never succeed."
"China... reserves the right to take further reactions, all consequences will be borne by Australia," Lijian added.
Tensions between China and Australia were already heightened after Canberra called for an independent probe into the origins of the Wuhan coronavirus. Beijing retaliated by imposing tariffs on some Australian imports while suspending others, and warning citizens against traveling to the country, which their state newspapers described as a “giant kangaroo that serves as a dog of the U.S.”