Following Canada's move last week, Australia has announced it is suspending its extradition treaty with Hong Kong amid a build-up in tensions related to the new Beijing-imposed national security law cracking down on anti-mainland dissent.
“Our government, together with other governments around the world, have been very consistent in expressing our concerns about the imposition of the national security law on Hong Kong,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Thursday. “Today we have agreed to announce that that national security law constitutes a fundamental change of circumstances in respect to our extradition agreement with Hong Kong.”
Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian immediately voiced China's outrage, urging the Australian government to cease its 'interference' while warning retaliation is coming, likely to take an economic form, given China remains Australia's biggest exports customer. He called the dramatic suspension of the long-time extradition treaty a move which “seriously violated international law and the basic norms of international relations.”
The Chinese Embassy in Canberra also said Thursday: “We urge the Australian side to immediately stop meddling in Hong Kong affairs and China’s internal affairs,” and warned, “Otherwise it will lead to nothing but lifting a rock only to hit its own feet.”
This also comes two days after Australia updated its travel advice to its citizens for China, telling Aussies they risk 'arbitrary detention' while traveling through the communist-run country. “Authorities have detained foreigners because they’re ‘endangering national security’. Australians may also be at risk of arbitrary detention,” the unprecedented statement, also in response to the HK national security law, said.
“You may be at increased risk of detention on vaguely defined national security grounds,” the new travel advisory states further. “You could break the law without intending to.”
Also part of Thursday's extradition suspension announcement, is the crucial detail that Hong Kong students and workers arleady in Australia will be able to extend their visas with an expedited pathway and process for permanent residency.
Morrison also extended student visas to be valid for up to five years but noted he's “not expecting large numbers of applicants any time soon.”
Australia's decisions are part of a broader domino effect response, especially among English-speaking allies of the United States, to the security law.
As The New York Times observes:
Australia’s move is not as sweeping as Britain’s decision to open a path to citizenship for as many as three million Hong Kongers. But the announcement reflected global concern about China’s new law for the territory. New Zealand’s government also said on Thursday that it would review the country’s relationship with Hong Kong.
“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 added in his comments, describing the changes to the visa program.
China is at least initially likely to lash out at future Chinese tourism in Australia, given that Beijing's response to Canada's suspension of its own extradition treaty with Hong Kong was to in tit-for-tat fashion issue new travel warnings to Chinese traveling abroad. China's official travel advice now reads that citizens must remain "cautious" while traveling in Canada because of "frequent violent actions by law enforcement agencies in Canada, which have triggered many demonstrations."