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Australia suspends extradition agreement with Hong Kong

July 9, 2020

Australia has suspended its extradition agreement with Hong Kong over China's new security law. The country has updated the travel warning for its nationals in Hong Kong, urging them to "reconsider" their stay.

Protesters hold up blank papers during a demonstration in a mall in Hong Kong
Image: Getty Images/AFP/I. Lawrence

Australia suspended its extradition agreement with Hong Kong on Thursday over the new controversial national security law imposed by China on the region. 

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he was concerned at the imposition of the law, adding that it "undermines the 'one country, two
systems' framework."

The "national security law constitutes a fundamental change of circumstances in respect to our extradition agreement with Hong Kong," Morrison told reporters on Thursday.

The new legislation targets what authorities in mainland China define as secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces. Those violating the law could face up to life in prison. 

Read more: Can free press in Hong Kong survive national security law?

Offering safe haven

Morrison offered safe haven visas to Hong Kong residents who fear persecution as well as a "pathway to permanent residency" in Australia.

The Australian government will extend visas for Hong Kong nationals who are in Australia on skilled or student visas for five years. At the end of that time period, they can apply for permanent residency. The plans apply to both current and future students.

Around 10,000 Hong Kong nationals are currently living in Australia.

Earlier in the day, Australia urged its citizens in Hong Kong "reconsider" their "need to remain."

The ministry said the law could be "interpreted broadly" and possibly lead to Australians being transferred to mainland China for prosecution.

Read more: Germany's reluctance to speak out against China

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China slams decision

China heavily criticized Australia's decision, dubbing the move a "gross interference" in its affairs.

"China strongly deplores and opposes the groundless accusations and measures announced by the Australian government with regard to Hong Kong," said a statement from a spokesperson at the Chinese Embassy in Canberra.

Australia's announcment follows similar moves by other countries in the wake of China's new security law.

On Thursday, New Zealand's government said it will review relations with Hong Kong, including reconsidering extradition arrangements and controls on the export of so-called strategic goods as well as travel advice.

"China's decision to pass a new national security law for Hong Kong has fundamentally changed the environment for international engagement there," Foreign Minister Winston Peters said in a statement.

Last week, Canada suspended its extradition treaty with Hong Kong as well as the the export of sensitive military items. 

The new law has drawn international condemnation for jeopardizing Hong Kong's civil liberties enshrined under the "one country, two systems" framework, including freedom of speech and assembly.

dvv/rs (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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