Australia to offer residence option to 10,000 Hong Kongers

SYDNEY (AP) — The Australian government said it will offer around 10,000 Hong Kong passport holders currently living in Australia a chance to apply for permanent residence once their current visas expire.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s government believes China’s imposition of a new tough national security law on the semi-autonomous territory means 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 yesterday.

In order to obtain permanent residency, applicants would still have to pass “the character test, the national security test and the like,” 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 there,” 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.”

Morrison announced last week Australia suspended its extradition treaty with Hong Kong and extended visas for Hong Kong residents from two to five years.