Australia is now offering visas to some Hongkongers as it grants thousands of workers and students already in Australia extensions on their visas.
Australia is recruiting skilled migrants from the global financial hub as an economic opportunity. These invitations server as a symbolic gesture to support democracy.
More than a year after pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong over China’s increased influence, the recent passage of a severe national security law in June has had reverberations throughout the region.
The Australian Government is offering 10,000 Hongkongers already in workplaces and universities in Australia extensions on their visas. However, questions remain about the diplomatic implications of the decision and who is eligible.
The new law passed in Hong Kong June is so severe that even residents caught waiving a pro-independence flag on Australian soil could be arrested once they return home. The new law applies to citizens who are perceived to be undermining the Chinese state anywhere in the world.
The new visa applies to 8200 students, 570 temporary skilled visa holders, and 900 temporary graduate visa holders now in Australia plus 2000 others who are still overseas. Each of these individuals is eligible for a 5-year extension and can then apply for permanent residency once the extension expires.
There are also 1000 tourists and working holiday-makers who are not eligible. However, these individuals can apply for asylum if they fear persecution or for a skilled visa if they have a skill Australia needs.
Hong Kong has a high proportion of highly skilled workers as it is a key financial hub. Auditors, Accountants, IT and financial service experts are in abundance in the country. All of these professions are found on the skilled migrant list.
By offering the visas the Australian Government is attempting to walk a thin diplomatic line condemning the Chinese Government while saying that the issue is entirely domestic as these people are already in Australia.
China has accused Australia of significant interference with domestic Chinese affairs.