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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - The Australian government said it will offer about 10,000 Hong Kong passport holders living in Australia a chance to apply for permanent residence once their visas expire.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison's government believes China's imposition of a tough national security law on the semi-autonomous territory meant pro-democracy supporters may face political persecution.
"That means that many Hong Kong passport holders may be looking for other destinations to go to and hence why we have put forward our additional visa options for them," acting immigration minister Alan Tudge told Australian Broadcasting Corp television on Sunday.
In order to obtain permanent residency, applicants would still have to pass "the character test, the national security test and the like", Mr Tudge said.
"So it's not automatic. But it's certainly an easier pathway to permanent residency and, of course, once you're a permanent resident, there's then a pathway to citizenship," he said. "If people are genuinely persecuted and they can prove that case, then they can apply for one of our humanitarian visas in any case."
Last week, Australia suspended its extradition treaty with Hong Kong and extended visas for Hong Kong residents from two to five years.
The move came after China bypassed Hong Kong's Legislative Council to impose the sweeping security legislation without public consultation. Critics viewed the law – in response to last year's sometimes violent protests calling for greater democracy and more police accountability – as a further deterioration of freedoms promised to the former British colony.
The national security law prohibited what Beijing viewed as secessionist, subversive or terrorist activities or as foreign intervention in Hong Kong's affairs. Under the law, police have sweeping powers to conduct searches without warrants and order internet service providers and platforms to remove messages deemed to be in violation of the legislation.
The Chinese foreign ministry said it reserved the right to "take further actions" in response to moves by Canberra. "The consequences will be fully borne by Australia," spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters at a daily briefing on Thursday.
Updated: July 12, 2020 01:21 PM
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