Australia tentative safe haven for fleeing HKers

SYDNEY —  Migrant centers in Australia are being flooded with visa inquiries from Hong Kong residents worried about China’s security crackdown.

Human rights groups are worried that only people already living in Australia on temporary permits will get a safe haven unless authorities agree to lift travel bans imposed earlier this year on all non-citizens.

Canberra has said that every application will be considered “on a case-by-case basis”, but Elaine Pearson, director of Human Rights Watch Australia, called for a separate channel to handle Hong Kong immigration requests.

“Creating this flexibility might help reassure Hong Kong people who do try to exercise their rights after the national security law is imposed that there are quick pathways to safe countries like Australia if authorities come after them…Absolutely the Australian government should provide a safe haven for those likely to be targeted by Beijing,” Pearson said.

China sparked panic in the special administrative region this week when it passed a new security law that threatens indefinite detention for anyone convicted of four vague offenses of separatism, subversion, terrorism and “collusion with foreign forces.” Life imprisonment applies in some cases.