Australia tells visiting Chinese FM that Hong Kong reforms ‘erode rights’

Australia’s top diplomat, Penny Wong, conveyed a pointed message to her Chinese counterpart during a meeting in Canberra, emphasising grave concerns regarding the implications of Hong Kong’s national security reforms. Wong said that these reforms would not only undermine rights and freedoms but also extend their impact beyond China’s borders. The dialogue aimed to address strained relations between the two nations.

In the diplomatic exchange, Wong highlighted that the national security reforms in Hong Kong would contravene international commitments. An official from the Australian foreign ministry told AFP that Wong expressed apprehensions about the legislation’s potential to further erode the rights and freedoms that China had previously agreed to uphold. 

Global implications and Australian concerns

Australia views the repercussions of the Hong Kong legislation as extensive, with potential effects reaching individuals within Australia. The official reiterated Australia’s belief that the laws pose significant challenges not only domestically but also in terms of international relations, emphasising the broader impact beyond the borders of China and Hong Kong.

Wong’s remarks on the national security reforms are likely to have strained relations further between Australia and China. Chinese authorities have consistently dismissed similar criticisms from other Western nations, labeling them as attempts to discredit China. Despite the diplomatic tensions, Australia remains steadfast in voicing its concerns regarding human rights violations and erosion of freedoms in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong’s transition from a British colony to a Special Administrative Region of China in 1997 marked the beginning of the “one country, two systems” framework. This arrangement aimed to preserve Hong Kong’s distinct legal and political system, ensuring a level of autonomy and freedoms not enjoyed in mainland China.

The newly introduced national security legislation in Hong Kong has drawn widespread condemnation from Australia and its Western allies. The legislation imposes severe penalties, including life imprisonment for offenses related to treason and insurrection, as well as expanded sedition laws. Moreover, its extraterritorial reach has raised concerns about potential implications for individuals outside Hong Kong.

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Exiled Hong Kong politician Ted Hui, now residing in Australia, denounced the legislation as a detrimental blow to Hong Kong’s freedoms and democracy. He viewed the legislation as a manifestation of China’s authoritarian influence and perceives it as a directive from Beijing, signaling further repression in the region.

(With inputs from agencies)

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