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Issue #1924      July 20, 2020

Morrison showcases hypocritical “refugee” stance

On the 9th July, Prime Minister Scott Morrison held a press conference at which he announced the suspension of Australia’s extradition agreement with the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) of the People’s Republic of China, as well as the extension of skilled and graduate visas for Hong Kong residents by five years followed by a pathway to permanent residency in Australia.

Supporters of China’s new security law celebrate in Hong Kong, June 2020.

Morrison attributed the cause for these policy changes to “an acknowledgement of the fundamental change of circumstances in relation to Hong Kong because of the new security law”, namely that the recently passed law on national security “undermines the One Country, Two Systems framework, and Hong Kong’s own basic law and the high degree of autonomy guaranteed in the Sino-British Joint Declaration”.

Morrison described the view that the law contradicts these three things as “a shared view of many countries.”

In reference to “citizens of Hong Kong who may be looking to move elsewhere,” Morrison claimed “Australia has always been a very welcoming country to such people from all around the world, and our immigration system is the best in the world.”

It is difficult to decipher what meaning of “such people” would make this statement one which comes anywhere near to reflecting the facts of Australia’s immigration record. But it is clear that Morrison is happy to disagree with the shared view of many countries (and Australians) that in fact Australia has often not been “very welcoming,” and Australia’s immigration system is not “the best in the world.” The White Australia policy and the issue of human rights violations in the offshore detention centres are just two of the most obvious examples from our respective past and present.

The allegation that China’s law on national security undermines the principle of One Country, Two Systems is an outrageous and hypocritical claim. There is no “One Country, Two Systems” without “One Country,” yet the so called “pro-democracy protesters”, praised and supported by the US camp, are led by extremist separatists who by definition wish to destroy the “One Country” principle. Foreign observers and governments, as well as the separatist rioters in the Hong Kong opposition, have no right to treat “One Country, Two Systems” as a phrase to throw around in pursuit of their interests while they have no respect for its content.

The US government and its followers such as Morrison claim that the national security law puts an end to “Two Systems” because it supposedly violates Hong Kong’s Basic Law, the document which outlines Hong Kong’s political and economic system, and as such it undermines that system’s autonomy from the socialist system of the Chinese mainland. This claim falls apart upon investigation.

The Basic Law was developed during the period of British colonial rule over Hong Kong, as a result of the Sino-British Joint Declaration in 1984. It was developed over the following five years by a committee consisting of experts from both Hong Kong and the mainland, and went through several rounds of public consultation conducted by a separate committee consisting solely of Hong Kong people. It was officially promulgated in 1990, and came into force with the return of Hong Kong to Chinese sovereignty in 1997, an event which demonstrated that the Basic Law was accepted by the British as meeting the terms of the Joint Declaration.

The new security legislation has been made in accordance with Article 18 of the Basic Law, which like all of the Articles has remained unmodified since the 1990 promulgation. It provides conditions for the central government to add to Annex III of the Basic Law in consultation with the HKSAR government. It also states that in the case of “turmoil within the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region which endangers national unity or security and is beyond the control of the government of the Region” the central government may decide to apply “the relevant national laws in the Region”.

Although Article 23 of the Basic Law declared that the HKSAR government had a responsibility to “enact laws on its own to prohibit any act of treason, secession, sedition, subversion against the Central People’s Government” amongst other things, it has failed to do so due to sustained disruption by the political opposition. The central government has been forced to step in and exercise its jurisdiction over matters of national security – although it is important to note that this does not negate the fact that the HKSAR government still has the same overdue responsibility to make laws of its own in this regard. This is another example of the hypocrisy of the opposition and their backers, who appeal to the authority of the Basic Law whilst themselves deliberately impeding its implementation.

Finally, the last of the three things Morrison referred to was the aforementioned Sino-British Joint Declaration of 1984. By referring to it in this context, Morrison appears to be upholding the current British conception of the Declaration, which is to claim that it is a binding treaty that remains in force today. This is despite the fact that China has always rejected this conception of the Declaration, and for good reason: the very purpose of the Declaration was to set up the conditions to end all British claims of sovereignty over Chinese territory, and return Hong Kong to Chinese sovereignty. For the UK to claim that the document, which almost entirely pertains to internal affairs of Hong Kong, remains of continuing legal significance, makes a mockery of any notion of sovereignty. It is unconscionable for any country to claim they recognise a country’s sovereignty over part of its own territory, whilst simultaneously claiming they continue to have a say in the internal affairs of that territory.

So does any aspect of Morrison’s “shared view” about China’s security law stand up to scrutiny? Sadly, whether it does or not seems to be irrelevant in our country at the present time.

Next article – Editorial – Deaths in Custody

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