Hong Kong

Australia Offers 5-Year Visa Extensions to Students and Workers From Hong Kong

The country's response to Hong Kong residents fleeing the national security law was modest, yet still drew the ire of Chinese officials.

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Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison will allow students and workers from Hong Kong to overstay their visas, but his policy comes with limits.

Morrison announced on Thursday that Australia would suspend its extradition treaty with Hong Kong and allow the 10,000 Hong Kong students and "temporary skilled workers" currently living in Australia to apply for five-year visa extensions, after which they can apply for permanent residency. 

Many Hongkongers have sought refuge abroad following the implementation of Hong Kong's new national security law, which criminalized a broad range of behavior including secession, subversion, terrorism, or collusion. Critics say that the law, backed by the Communist Party of China, has had a chilling effect on freedom of expression in the city. A day after the law was imposed, police arrested hundreds of pro-democracy demonstrators

Australia offers two varieties of protective visas: Safe Haven Enterprise Visas (SHEVs) and Temporary Protective Visas (TPVs). In an interview earlier this month, Morrison suggested that he would consider offering SHEVs to Hongkongers needing to flee. These visas, which evolved from a United Nations-coordinated program developed in the 1990s to accommodate refugees from the Balkan wars, offer five years of temporary protection to illegal arrivals who go on to work or study in Australia. Other reports hinted that Australia may offer "Tiananmen-style" TPV visas to Hong Kong residents. These visas offered four years of protection to Chinese students in Australia at the time of the Tiananmen Square crackdown—today's TPVs offer three years.

However, the government rejected these more generous offers in its current policy. Morrison clarified that the government is not offering refugee status but seeks to attract "serious talent." Hongkongers "will have the opportunity to apply for permanent residency," Morrison says, but there is no guarantee that it will be granted. Acting Immigration Minister Alan Tudge has said current visa holders from Hong Kong will "almost certainly" be granted permanent residency if they pass character and national security exams. Unlike the Tiananmen TPVs, these visas do not offer recipients access to welfare benefits or help with finding a job in Australia.

Many Australian political leaders have suggested that the country's measures don't go far enough. Greens Party leader Adam Bandt suggested that Australia should rethink its trade arrangements: "Even if you agree with free trade agreements in general, it's time for a rethink about whether entering into a [free trade] agreement with Hong Kong is giving a tacit stamp of approval to the crackdown."

The national security exam requirement for Australian permanent residency attracted criticism from China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Hua Chunying, who accused the Australian government of "undisguised hypocrisy and blatant double standards" for lambasting Hong Kong's national security law while prioritizing their own.

Morrison's proposal is one of many global responses to Hong Kong's plight. A bipartisan group of five U.S. senators introduced the Hong Kong Safe Harbor Act in June. If passed, the bill would fast-track visa applications by Hongkongers and remove lots of red tape around the admission process. A companion bill in the House would expedite skill immigration from the island.

Meanwhile, Japan is helping firms relocate outside the territory and Taiwan has already set up a government department to facilitate relocations. A sweeping offer by the United Kingdom earlier this month would offer up to 3 million Hongkongers not just visas but also permanent residency and a path to citizenship. 

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  1. “Critics say that the law, backed by the Communist Party of China, has had a chilling effect on freedom of expression in the city.”

    It not just the city the stupid CCP decided its new law should apply the the whole world and any one in it or off of it. Which make the whole Libertarian Party plus most of the U.S.A outlaws to be prosecuted in China or extradited to China by any country that has an extradition treaty with them. I’m real happy right now that we have a large military with nukes.

    1. Which make the whole Libertarian Party plus most of the U.S.A outlaws to be prosecuted in China

      My mother always warned me if I didn’t act right, I’d end up an international fugitive.

      1. Yeah but that advice about the hairy palms clearly didn’t pan out so how much does your mom actually know?

        1. Don’t now about your palms, but I use mine to wax and buff my cherry red Ferrari. Wax and buff. Heh. I’ll be in my bunk.

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  2. The country’s response to Hong Kong residents fleeing the national security law was modest, yet still drew the ire of Chinese officials.

    Not surprising. Slavers don’t like it when their slaves are able to escape.

    1. I take/took it with a hint of “Oh no Br’er Fox! Whatever you do, don’t throw me in that briar patch!”

      The tiff between The Colonies and The Crown worked out real well for the natives, right? Now imagine The Crown didn’t lose.

  3. My home town had several Hong Kong immigrant families. Some of the hardest working families in the town. Every one of their kids managed to get into an Ivy League school (most of them went to Brown) without any government assistance.

    We could use a hell of a lot of families like that in this country. Why aren’t we following Australia’s lead?

    1. Why aren’t we following Australia’s lead?

      I fail to see the difference between working to get into Brown and working for the CCCP.

  4. I propose we straight up trade all the Hong Kong protesters for ours. They want capitalism, ours want communism. Everyone gets what they want.

    1. Disagree.

      We’re going to trade away the people who naively believe in equality outcomes *and* the BOR while the intentional racebaiters and marxists stay behind. In exchange, we’re going to get the communist sympathizers and the dregs of Hong Kong that couldn’t previously flee.

      A few years to months ago, your suggestion *might* have made sense. At this point, let them go through extreme vetting like your average Ecuadorian refugee.

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