Australia’s Prime Minister said Thursday his government was considering an offer of safe haven to Hong Kong residents threatened by China’s move to impose a tough national security law on the semi-autonomous territory.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Cabinet would soon consider options “to provide similar opportunities” as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has offered people in Hong Kong.
“When we have made a final decision on those arrangements, then I’ll make the announcements”, Morrison told reporters in Canberra.
Britain is extending residency rights for up to 3 million Hong Kongers eligible for British National Overseas passports, allowing them to live and work in the United Kingdom for five years.
Morrison said similar action would be “important, very consistent with who we are as a people and very consistent practically with the views that we’ve expressed”.
Australia could potentially offer Hong Kong residents temporary protection visas that allow refugees to live in the country for up to three years.
China bypassed Hong Kong’s Legislative Council to pass the sweeping legislation without public consultation this week.
An offer of safe haven to Hong Kong residents would further strain relations between Australia and its most important trading partner, China.
Also on Thursday, Australian Defence Minister Linda Reynolds told a security think-tank that “Australia remains committed to the careful management of our relationship with China”.
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Hong Kong, officially the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China (HKSAR), is a metropolitan area and special administrative region of the People’s Republic of China on the eastern Pearl River Delta of the South China Sea. With over 7.5 million residents of various nationalities in a 1,104-square-kilometre (426 sq mi) territory, Hong Kong is one of the most densely populated places in the world.
Hong Kong became a colony of the British Empire after the Qing Empire ceded Hong Kong Island at the end of the First Opium War in 1842. The colony expanded to the Kowloon Peninsula in 1860 after the Second Opium War and was further extended when Britain obtained a 99-year lease of the New Territories in 1898. The whole territory was transferred to China in 1997. As a special administrative region, Hong Kong maintains separate governing and economic systems from that of mainland China under the principle of “one country, two systems”.
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Scott John Morrison is an Australian politician who is the 30th and current prime minister of Australia. He took office in August 2018 upon his election as leader of the Liberal Party, and subsequently led the Coalition to victory at the 2019 federal election.
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The United Kingdom is the seat of the formerly extensive British Empire.