CANBERRA, Jul 2, 2020, News.com.au. Australia is preparing to offer safe haven visas to thousands of Hong Kong residents living here who don’t want to return home in the wake of China’s brutal crackdown on pro-democracy protesters, News.com.au reported.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison offered his strongest support to date today for safe haven visas for up to 20,000 Hong Kong residents currently living in Australia.
The safe haven visas could allow the Hong Kong residents to live, work or study in Australia for years and possibly permanently.
The Prime Minister said he was disturbed by the latest clashes over the new “national security laws” that saw 370 protesters arrested as police fired teargas, pepper spray and water cannons at thousands of people.
He also signalled he was prepared to offer safe haven visas as Britain has confirmed it will offer to those fleeing the regime.
“The answer to both questions is yes and yes. In the first instance, we do find these events very concerning and we have been very clear about our statement to that in concert with many other nations,’’ Mr Morrison said.
“This is not a position Australia has commented on in isolation. The basic law and the safeguards that were put in place with the handover (of Hong Kong to China), we would expect to be upheld.
“I think that’s a very reasonable position and a very consistent position for the Government. We are considering very actively and there are proposals that I asked to be brought forward several weeks ago and the final touches would be put on those and they’ll soon be considered by Cabinet.
“When we have made a final decision on those arrangements, then I’ll make the announcements, but are you asking are we prepared to step up and provide support? The answer is yes.”
The Prime Minister’s statement is in sharp contrast to his rhetoric last year when he was adopting a cautious approach to the issue.
In September, Mr Morrison declared in a radio interview that it was “not for us” to tell other countries how to run their affairs.
“I think what we have to do in this situation, as I’ve said all along, is to remain calm. We’re closely assessing the situation,” he said.
Overnight, UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab confirmed nearly 3 million Hong Kong residents could be offered safe haven visas and added “we will not duck our historic responsibilities”.
Former Prime Minister Bob Hawke offered 40,000 visas to Chinese students safe haven visas after the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre to ensure they could live safely in Australia.
Greens leader Adam Bandt has previously urged the Morrison Government to step up and offer safe haven visas and “follow the lead of Bob Hawke, who after the bloody Tiananmen Square massacre showed tremendous compassion by opening Australia’s arms to Chinese people fleeing tyranny”.
“If Boris Johnson is opening the door to potentially millions of people fleeing Hong Kong, it’s unacceptable that we’re not offering anyone refuge,” Mr Bandt said.