9 Jul 2020

New Zealand to review relationship with Hong Kong after new security law passes

4:43 pm on 9 July 2020

The New Zealand government is "reviewing the settings of its relationship" with Hong Kong, the Foreign Affairs Minister has announced.

Riot police hold up a warning flag during a demonstration in a mall in Hong Kong on July 6, 2020, in response to a new national security law.

Hong Kong riot police hold up a warning flag during a demonstration in a mall, in response to a new national security law. Photo: AFP

It follows the introduction of a national security law by Beijing that criminalises forms of political protest with penalties including life imprisonment.

Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters said the new national security law had "fundamentally changed the environment for international engagement there".

"New Zealand remains deeply concerned at the imposition of this legislation on Hong Kong.

"Accordingly, the government has directed officials to review all of New Zealand's policy settings with respect to Hong Kong to determine the appropriate nature of our cooperation going forward.

"This will be a deliberate, considered review across all of our settings, including extradition arrangements, controls on exports of strategic goods, and travel advice.

"New Zealand shares the international community's significant and longstanding stake in Hong Kong's prosperity and stability. We will continue to monitor the law's impact on the people of Hong Kong, with whom we share close links," said Peters.

Earlier today, the government's travel advisory warned New Zealanders in Hong Kong they face an increased risk of arrest.

"This legislation could be interpreted broadly, leading to increased risk of arrest and prosecution on national security grounds for a wide range of activity, including protest activity," the SafeTravel website said.

It coincides with the Australian government's advisory to its citizens in Hong Kong, warning Australians who visit the city "may be at increased risk of detention on vaguely defined national security grounds".

Police officers control the demonstration in Hong Kong Island on July 1, 2020, on the 23rd anniversary of the former British colony's handover to China.

Police officers control demonstrations in Hong Kong Island on July 1, 2020, after the passing of a controversial new security law. Photo: The Yomiuri Shimbun / AFP

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade was already advising travellers not to travel to China - or anywhere overseas - because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The news from across the Tasman comes after a Canadian government official told Reuters that foreign ministers from the Five Eyes group discussed the situation in Hong Kong during a conference call.

The official declined to elaborate. The Five Eyes groups Canada, the United States, Britain, Australia and New Zealand.

Separately, Canada's Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne tweeted that he discussed with his counterparts from the other countries many issues regarding international peace and security.

Last week, Minister for Foreign Affairs Winston Peters questioned the controversial new security law, saying it was a critical moment for fundamental human rights and freedoms protected in Hong Kong for generations.

Australia suspends extradition agreement, offers extended visas

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced Australia will extend the visas of some Hong Kong citizens.

The changes apply to people already in Australia, offering safe haven and a path to permanent residency.

Temporary work visa holders and student visa holders currently in Australia will have their visas extended, allowing them to stay in Australia for five years.

They will have the opportunity to apply for permanent residency after that period.

It is understood the changes will affect about 10,500 students, and 1500 people on other relevant visas, most of whom are already in Australia.

Morrison did not announce any plans for a humanitarian intake of Hong Kong residents.

"The most significant impact of the decisions we've made today are for those around 10,000 people who are already in Australia," he said.

"The refugee and humanitarian stream remains available for those seeking to apply through that channel, and that is available to people all around the world."

Australia is also suspending its extradition agreement with Hong Kong.

Morrison said the agreement was on hold because the new laws represented a "fundamental change in circumstances".

- RNZ / Reuters / ABC

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