As China’s security crackdown on dissent in previously liberal Hong Kong continues, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has confirmed that Australia may be willing to allow eligible Hong Kong residents to resettle in the country.
The United Kingdom, Hong Kong’s former colonial power before the city was returned to China in 1997 under a special agreement that guaranteed a high level of autonomy and democracy, has already said that it will facilitate settlement of many Hong Kong residents.
Australia will consider providing a safe haven
“We are considering [providing a safe haven] very actively and there are proposals that I asked to be brought forward several weeks ago,” Morrison said.
“The final touches will be put on those and they’ll soon be considered by Cabinet to provide similar opportunities [to those offered by Britain].
“We think that’s important and very consistent with who we are as a people and very consistent practically with the views that we have expressed,” the PM stated.
“When we have made a final decision on those arrangements I’ll make an announcement, but if you’re asking are we prepared to step up and provide support, the answer is yes,” he said.
Speculation that all ‘Five Eyes’ nations will take migrants
There has been strong speculation that the countries comprising the ‘Five Eyes’ intelligence network – the UK, US, Australia, New Zealand and Canada – will act in unison to help resettle Hong Kong residents if there is an exodus from the city.
The hope is that this would make it harder for an already belligerent China to retaliate against any specific country in what it has labelled as ‘meddling in its internal affairs’.
China and Australia are already at loggerheads over a wide range of issues. China has also reacted angrily to Britain’s announcements that it will offer eligible people in Hong Kong a path to citizenship, allowing them to settle in the United Kingdom.
Before the 1997 handover took place, citizens in Hong Kong were able to apply for British National Overseas (BNO) passports. There are now said to be hundreds of thousands of these passport-holders and many more people are believed to be eligible.