Australia should offer safe haven visas to Hongkongers currently based in Australia, and those fleeing persecution under new repressive national security laws passed by Chinese authorities.
“We welcome Prime Minister Scott Morrison mooting offering people from Hong Kong safe haven visas, just as the UK government is intending,” Amnesty International Australia campaigner, Nikita White said.
“Chinese authorities have wasted no time in cracking down on protesters after pushing through new national security laws.
“The definition of ‘national security’ in the legislation is so vague it prevents anyone from knowing how and when they might transgress it.
“Hongkongers are facing an assault by the Beijing authorities and the Hong Kong government on freedoms they have long enjoyed.
“Australia has an excellent track record in stepping in to assist people suffering repression by extending safe haven visas, as the Hawke Government did notably in 1989 following the Tiananmen Square massacre.”
Under the national security law, the full details of which were only released late last night, the crimes of separatism, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign or external forces are punishable by a minimum sentence of three years and a maximum of life imprisonment.
The Chinese central government will also establish an Office of Safeguarding National Security in Hong Kong, with its own law enforcement personnel and the ability to exercise jurisdiction over certain cases.
This means under certain circumstances suspects can be transferred for detention and trial to mainland China, where individuals accused of endangering national security are routinely denied fair trial rights.
Although the law has one provision recognizing generic human rights safeguards, other parts of the law allow the Office of Safeguarding National Security to exercise sweeping powers while effectively bypassing oversight by Hong Kong’s legislative and judicial system, including immunity from local jurisdiction.
The law also allows local law enforcement additional investigative powers, while reducing judicial oversight at the same time.
The UN Security Council, General Assembly and numerous expert bodies have repeatedly stressed that full compliance with international law, in particular international human rights law, is the fundamental basis and best practice for a successful strategy in combating threats to national security.
Scores of people were detained amid protests on Wednesday, with police stating that seven had been arrested on suspicion of violating the national security law by the late afternoon. One man was arrested after he was searched and a “Hong Kong Independence” flag was found in his bag.
International human rights laws and standards stipulate that peacefully expressing one’s opinion about independence does not constitute a threat to national security.