Wednesday, June 3, 2020
UK seeks help in resettling refugees from Hong Kong...OZ and Canada next
Australia is considering a British request to resettle tens of thousands of Hong Kong residents if the security situation deteriorates there, and could look at a special humanitarian intake from the Chinese territory if needed.
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab asked his Five Eyes counterparts including Foreign Minister Marise Payne on Tuesday to consider whether they could provide residency for some of the 314,000 British National Overseas passport-holders in Hong Kong. The request comes amid discussions within the Morrison government on potential support for Hong Kong citizens who may be forced to flee if Beijing makes good on its threat to introduce security laws in the territory.
There is concern within the ministry and on the backbench over the ramifications of the laws, which would allow Chinese security agencies to operate in the territory and ban “any acts or activities” that endanger China’s national security.
The government says a large number of Hong Kong citizens could be allowed into Australia under skilled and business visa categories, if the need arises, given the slowdown in arrivals since COVID-19 border closures.
A special humanitarian intake, like that extended to 12,000 Syrian refugees under the Abbott government in 2015, is seen as a fallback option. “We are looking at options to welcome people if the current avenues aren’t sufficient,” one source said.
BNO passport holders do not have right of abode in Britain, but Mr Raab told the British parliament that if China followed through with its planned crackdown, the UK would override the current six-month residency limit for BNO passport holders, giving them “a pathway to citizenship”.
He said he had raised the plight of BNO passport holders in a teleconference with Senator Payne and counterparts from the US, Canada and New Zealand: “I raised it on the Five Eyes call yesterday, the possibility of … burden-sharing if we see a mass exodus from Hong Kong.”
One source said the acceptance of refugees from Hong Kong would allow Australia to take advantage of their entrepreneurial abilities, as well as the capital they brought with them.
China says the new security laws, which will bypass Hong Kong’s legislature, are needed to tackle “terrorism” and “separatism” in a restless city it now regards as a national security threat.
Opponents, including many Western nations, fear it will bring mainland-style political oppression to a business hub that was promised freedoms and autonomy for 50 years after its 1997 handover from Britain.