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Australia and U.K. Respond to Hong Kong’s New Security Law

Worldwide ERC® - Jul 13 2020
Published in: Public Policy
China’s new security measure over Hong Kong was signed into law, triggering responses from the U.K. and Australia that impact mobility.

On 30 June, China enacted a sweeping security law over Hong Kong, effectively giving China more control over the region in a move that’s faced backlash from Western countries. President Xi Jinping signed the measure into law, incorporating it into Hong Kong’s constitution. In response to this move, Australia is advising permanent residents in Hong Kong to return to Australia. Additionally, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson on 1 July offered a path to citizenship for Hong Kong residents who hold U.K. passports.

On 28 May, China's National People's Congress voted to draft legislation that gives China more control over the city. Final text of the new law permits China to set up its own national security agency to prosecute cases on Hong Kong soil without being beholden to Hong Kong’s laws. Those found guilty of subversion, secession, foreign interference or terrorism could face life imprisonment.

The governments of the U.S., U.K., Australia and Canada previously released a joint statement expressing “deep concern” over what these countries see as a curtailing of Hong Kong’s liberties. Australia is now advising residents not to travel to Hong Kong. There are nearly 100,000 Australians in Hong Kong, many of whom are likely transferees and their families. Companies will now have to discuss Australia’s travel guidance with their employees, assessing whether they’re comfortable remaining in Hong Kong.

The U.K. also responded to these national security measures by offering the 350,000 Hong Kong residents holding U.K. passports a path to settle in the U.K. and later receive citizenship. Holders of the British National Overseas Passport and their dependents will be granted the right to remain in the U.K. to live, work, and study for five years. After five years, they will be eligible to apply for settled status and then citizenship after a year. British National Overseas Passport holders in Hong Kong may also travel to the U.K. immediately, and will not face salary thresholds to gain visas.

How This Impacts Mobility

Hong Kong is an important global financial center with a population of over seven million people, a host to many multinationals and a frequent destination for expats. Hong Kong’s autonomy is likely to be a critical issue for workforce talent mobility and the global economy as we look ahead. The U.K.’s and Australia’s decisions will likely have a significant impact on those living or working in Hong Kong or those seeking citizenship elsewhere due to these security measures. Should any member have questions about this development, please reach out to Worldwide ERC®’s Vice President of Government Affairs, Rebecca Peters at rpeters@worldwideerc.org.