An estimated 10,000 Hong Kongers in Australia – including temporary skilled workers – will be eligible for residency programs, as well as 2,500 that are overseas and 1,250 in the process of applying for visas.
Those already in the country on temporary graduate visas will be offered a five-year extension regardless of how much time they have already spent in Australia, while those who study at regional campuses will be eligible for permanent residency after three years.
“Australia has a long history of attracting Hong Kong’s best and brightest”
“Australia has a long history of attracting Hong Kong’s best and brightest who have contributed significantly to our economic growth and job creation, and we are committed to ensuring this is further strengthened,” said Australian prime minister, Scott Morrison in a statement.
“That’s why Australia will introduce new measures for students, temporary graduates and skilled workers from Hong Kong who want to live, work and study in Australia.”
Following the passing of the Hong Kong National Security Law by Beijing, many Hong Kongers and business based in the city are looking for options to move abroad.
High-profile dissidents such as pro-democracy activist Nathan Law have already fled the city, while many have already been arrested for secessionist activities and terrorism – the definition of which now includes advocating Hong Kong independence.
The National Security Law will see officials and advisors from the Mainland take a more active role in Hong Kong affairs.
While the Hong Kong government will continue to oversee national security cases, Beijing will be able to take over in some circumstances and cases involving “state secrets and public order” can be held behind closed doors with no jury.
The new law also makes breaking these rules overseas illegal, meaning that even a non-Hong Kong citizen could be charged under them for actions abroad if they go to Hong Kong, as well as returning Hong Kong students who have protested on foreign campuses.
The Chinese Embassy in Australia and the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs have strongly condemned Australia for its decision.
“Hong Kong affairs are China’s internal affairs. The Australian side has been clanking that they oppose ‘foreign interference’,” said a spokesperson for the former.
“The Australian side…has blatantly interfered in China’s internal affairs”
“However they have blatantly interfered in China’s internal affairs by making irresponsible remarks on Hong Kong-related issues. Its hypocrisy and double standard is exposed in full.
“We urge the Australian side to immediately stop meddling in Hong Kong affairs and China’s internal affairs under any pretext or in any way.”
Australia’s actions are however not without precedent. In 1989, then-prime minister Bob Hawke offered 42,000 Chinese students residency options in Australia in the wake of the Tiananmen Square massacre.
“Clearly the opportunity to stay and work in Australia after graduation is one of the most influential factors in students’ decision making about study destinations. In our recent study, up to 76% international students indicated access to this the temporary graduate visa was an important factor when choosing Australia as their study destination,” Deakin University researcher Ly Tran told The PIE News.
“The permanent residency (PR) pathway tag of the new policy is even more critical for Hong Kong students in the current context when it’s getting more and more difficult for international students and alumni on the temporary graduate visas to secure PR as the quota of PR visas keeps decreasing while required points for PR keep increasing,” she added.
“However, it should be noted that while this is a promising move, it’s not a guaranteed or automatic pathway to PR for all Hong Kong international students in Australia as the Prime Minister Scott Morrison noted PR visas are granted ‘subject to meeting an updated skills list and appropriate market testing’.”
Furthermore, Australia is not alone in making moves to take in Hong Kongers.
The UK announced a path to permanent residency and citizenship for British National Overseas passport holders, which make up around half of Hong Kong’s seven million-strong population.
Hong Kong international students in London have reported that they are currently making arrangements to help their families emigrate, reporting a scramble to renew and apply for BNO passports at the British Embassy, where processing delays have further been exacerbated by Covid-19.