- When the world is struggling hard due to the pandemic, China seems to be cornering itself on various fronts.
- Australia has suspended its extradition treaty with Hong Kong due to a new security law imposed on the city by China.
- Government has asked Aussies living in Hong Kong to rethink their stay, as there seems a risk to be trapped in the vaguely defined law in the city.
- Many western democracies, including the US, have strongly opposed the new security law on Hong Kong.
The world is puzzled with unprecedented health and economic crisis created by the novel coronavirus. Despite worldwide lockdown to curb the spread of this deadly virus, cases have not stopped from rising. The COVID-19 crisis demands social distancing, strict hygiene practices, travel restrictions and almost everything that is not in sync with the way people have lived till now. Consequently, everyone is just figuring out how to adapt to this new way of living along with continuing businesses.
Governments all over the world are trying hard to reopen economic activities, but all efforts seem to be threatened with new outbreaks. Amid the pandemic, when all the nations have their crisis to handle, including China, which re-imposed restrictions due to fresh outbreaks, China seems to be getting cornered on multiple fronts. The latest being Australia’s suspension of its extradition treaty with Hong Kong in response to a new national security law imposed by China.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has highlighted that Australia and Hong Kong have always shared close relations. He also acknowledged Hong Kong's contribution (via talent and companies) to Australia's economy and job creation, stating that the government is committed to strengthening the relationship further.
Government of Australia would provide new visa arrangements for people from Hong Kong living in Australia, so that they can get further opportunities to remain in the country and even get options for permanent residency. New measures would be rolled out for skilled workers, temporary graduates, and students from Hong Kong who intend to stay here to study, work and live, according to a 9 July 2020 statement by the Prime Minister.
Chinese Embassy's Reaction to Australia's Visa Extension Announcement
The embassy has condemned the move, calling it a gross interference in its domestic affairs, and stated that Australia violated international law with this announcement. The UK government has also offered citizenship options to Hong Kong residents, while Canada has suspended its extradition treaty with Hong Kong after the new law by China.
Rethink Staying in Hong Kong: Australian Govt
The Australian government has urged Australians living in Hong Kong to reconsider their stay in the city due to the vaguely defined new national security law imposed by China. The full scope of this new law and how it would be applied is still not clear. Under the law, Australians could be deported or face possible transfer to China for prosecution, as one can break the law without even knowing as it is not clearly defined.
Australia-China Relationship Deteriorates during COVID-19 Pandemic
Relationship between Australia and China seems to be getting rocky by the day. It all started when many western countries, including the US and Australia, expressed their concerns over the handling of coronavirus crisis by China during its initial stages. Australia called for an independent inquiry into the origin of the virus, which irked China so much that it imposed a massive tariff of 80 per cent on barley imported from Australia. The import tax would be applicable for five years.
Relation between these countries is not an easy one; traditionally, it has been dominated by global geopolitical and strategic concerns. However, the nations have strengthened their economic ties over the years, and in fact, China emerged as Australia's biggest trading partner.
It seems that being a growing world power, China sees bilateral relations in the context of broader global issues. Going by this, if Australia maintains good relationships with the US, its ties with China would directly depend on how is the relation between China and the US. So, it is a complicated relationship.
China's New Security Law for Hong Kong
The wide-ranging new security law passed by China is being considered as a threat to the freedom of Hong Kong's people. The law, which came into effect on 30 June, gives extraordinary power to Beijing to shape life in Hong Kong as per their defined rules. When critics are saying the law is to curtain protest and freedom of speech, China has said it is to resume stability.
Majority of Hong Kong residents opposed the controversial bill, which also received criticism from the western democracies.
US-China Escalating Tensions amid Great Virus Crisis (GVC)
Ties between the two most significant economic powers in the world are not cordial at the moment. It began with the US' strong objection on the way China handled the pandemic, and if it was not enough, the tension increased post this new law on Hong Kong. The US has strongly opposed it.
The US Senate has unanimously passed a bill to impose penalties on the Chinese officials who imposed the law, police units involved in the crackdown of protests in Hong Kong, and financial institutions funding activities that threaten the city's independence.
The US has also announced visa restrictions for Chinese officials accountable for disturbing Hong Kong's independence.
Meanwhile, the opposition camp in Hong Kong stated on 12 July that more than 600,000 HongKongers cast a symbolic 'protest' vote against the new security law.