Australia considering ‘safe haven’ offer to Hong Kongers

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the situation in Hong Kong was ‘very concerning’. Above, protesters scamper after hearing police are approaching during a rally against a new national security law on July 1, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 02 July 2020

Australia considering ‘safe haven’ offer to Hong Kongers

  • Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the situation in Hong Kong was ‘very concerning’
  • China has warned its students and tourists against going to Australia

SYDNEY: Australia is actively considering providing safe haven to Hong Kong residents in response to China’s sweeping new security law, it said Thursday, a move likely to further inflame tensions with Beijing.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the situation in Hong Kong was “very concerning” and his government was “very actively” considering proposals to welcome in residents of the former British territory.
Asked by a reporter whether Australia could extend an offer of safe haven, Morrison responded “yes.”
He said the measures would soon be considered by his Cabinet, hinting strongly that it would be approved.
“We think that’s important and very consistent with who we are as a people.”
It comes a day after the United Kingdom announced a new route for those with British National Overseas status and their families to move there and eventually apply for citizenship.
Hong Kong was under UK jurisdiction until Britain handed it back to China in 1997 with a guarantee that Beijing would preserve the city’s judicial and legislative autonomy for 50 years.
But critics say the new law — passed by Beijing’s rubber-stamp parliament this week without its text being released to the public — breaches the “One Country, Two Systems” principle that formally entered international law in 1984.
The Chinese Embassy in Canberra on Thursday dismissed criticisms of the new law, releasing a statement telling Australia to “stop meddling in Hong Kong affairs and China’s internal affairs.”
It said “we strongly deplore” Australia’s response to the legislation, after Foreign Minister Marise Payne expressed “deep concern” over the developments on Wednesday.
Morrison said no final decision had been made on how Australia’s arrangements would be structured, but the country was “prepared to step up and provide support” to Hong Kong residents.
Any offer is sure to further strain Canberra’s relationship with Beijing, coming after repeated clashes between the two sides.
Most recently, Australia enraged China by calling for an independent investigation into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic.
Canberra has also pushed back against what it describes as China’s economic “coercion,” covert influence campaigns and the use of technology companies like Huawei as a tool for intelligence-gathering and geopolitical leverage.
China has warned its students and tourists against going to Australia, slapped trade sanctions on Australian goods and sentenced an Australian citizen to death for drug trafficking.


Pompeo inks deal for US troop move from Germany to Poland

Updated 8 min 1 sec ago

Pompeo inks deal for US troop move from Germany to Poland

  • Some 4,500 US troops are currently based in Poland
  • Pompeo has used his Europe trip to warn the region’s young democracies about threats posed by Russia and China

WARSAW: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has sealed a defense cooperation deal with Polish officials that will pave the way for the redeployment of American troops from Germany to Poland.
In Warsaw on Saturday at the end of a four-nation tour of central and eastern Europe, Pompeo and Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Błaszczak signed an Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement that sets out the legal framework for the additional troop presence.
The pact supplements an existing NATO Status of Forces Agreement and allows for the enhancement and modernization of existing capabilities and facilities by granting US forces to access additional Polish military installations. It also sets out a formula for sharing the logistical and infrastructure costs of an expanded US presence in the country.
Some 4,500 US troops are currently based in Poland, but about 1,000 more are to be added, under a bilateral decision announced last year. Last month, in line with President Donald Trump’s demand to reduce troop numbers in Germany, the Pentagon announced that some 12,000 troops would be withdrawn from Germany with about 5,600 moving to other countries in Europe, including Poland.
In addition, several US military commands will be moved out of Germany, including the US Army V Corps overseas headquarters that will relocate to Poland next year.
Trump has long and loudly complained that Germany does not spend enough on defense and has repeatedly accused Germany of failing to pay NATO bills, which is a misstatement of the issue. NATO nations have pledged to dedicate 2 percent of their gross domestic product.
In addition, several US military commands will be moved out of Germany, including the US Army V Corps overseas headquarters that will relocate to Poland next year.
Saturday’s signing came just a day after the Trump administration suffered an embarrassing diplomatic loss at the United Nations when its proposal to indefinitely extend an arms embargo on Iran was soundly defeated in a UN Security Council vote that saw only one country side with the US Pompeo will visit that country, the Dominican Republic, on Sunday for the inauguration of its new president.
Pompeo has used his Europe trip to warn the region’s young democracies about threats posed by Russia and China and has received a warm welcome. In Poland, the reception was particularly kind given the friendship between Trump and conservative Polish President Andrzej Duda, who was sworn in for a second five-year term earlier this month after a hotly contested election.
Many of Duda’s Law and Justice party’s policies have put Poland at odds with the European Union, which is concerned that government efforts to reshape the judiciary and other actions have eroded the rule of law and democracy in the EU member country.