China’s ominous threat to Australia
China has warned the Australian economy will have a "bitter pill to swallow" if Canberra allows fleeing Hong Kong citizens to settle here.
The Global Times, which is considered a proxy for Beijing, made the comments in an editorial this morning.
The paper said a move to make it easier for Hong Kong citizens to settle in Australia would have a "huge negative impact" on the Australian economy and there would be "immeasurable losses" to Aussie firms.
It comes as a chorus of countries, including the UK, US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, have criticised the imposition of a new and highly controversial security law in the one-time British territory.
China has lashed out at criticism of the new law, which came into force on June 30, demanding other governments don't "interfere" in its affairs.
The law's full details, which were kept secret until they came into force, have criminalised a broad and ill-defined range of acts under the headings of secession, subversion, terrorism or collusion with foreign powers.
Already 10 people have been charged with breaching the new laws including one-person whose alleged crime was holding a banner that said, "Hong Kong independence".
Many of the crimes carry a sentence of life imprisonment and, for the first time, those who fall foul of the law can be deported to the Chinese mainland for trial under Beijing's more opaque legal system.
Critics have said Beijing now has open slather to prosecute dissent in its fractious territory and it does away with any pretence of the "one country, two systems" model which China agreed to when Britain gave up sovereignty in 1997.
'BITTER PILL TO SWALLOW'
Britain has already stoked the regime's fury after it said it will offer a path to citizenship to more than three million Hong Kong residents who were born before the handover to China.
Last week, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the new law was "very concerning" and Australia was prepared to "step up and provide support" to Hongkongers, although he didn't confirm whether that would include residency.
The Global Times darkly warned the PM not to get involved.
"If the Australian Government chooses to continue to interfere in China's internal affairs, it should be expected that the 'safe haven' offer will result in a huge negative impact on the Australian economy, making the issue much more serious than many people would have anticipated."
The Chinese foreign ministry has already warned Britain of "consequences" for granting citizenship; the editorial said "similar penalties" could apply to Australia.
"No one should underestimate the repercussions to the Australian economy from a further deterioration of bilateral ties. Anyone with knowledge of China-Australia trade could see that political provocations over the Hong Kong issue will only end up being a bitter pill for the country's economy to swallow.
"Unfortunately, the Morrison Government doesn't seem to quite understand it."
The editorial said there could be "light at the end of the tunnel concerning China-Australia tensions" but only, it hinted, if Canberra acquiesced to Beijing's demands.
"The Hong Kong issue is one of China's bottom lines, which should not be touched.
"The subsequent impacts may involve Australia's tourism, investment, education and trade sectors, among others, generating immeasurable losses to countless local businesses."
However, MPs from all parties have looked on at dismay at the eroding of what freedoms there were in Hong Kong.
Labour has said the Government should allow the 17,000 Hong Kong citizens already in Australia to remain if they are fearful of returning to the so-called autonomous region.
AUSTRALIANS IN CHINA WARNED
Australians have now been warned that travel to mainland China could put them at risk of "arbitrary detention" by the Communist regime.
The Department of Foreign Affairs' official travel advice for China has not changed, but the warning over the risk that the regime could effectively arrest foreigners and take them hostage is a dramatic escalation of the content of that advice.
"Authorities have detained foreigners because they're 'endangering national security'. Australians may also be at risk of arbitrary detention."
Canberra has now updated its advice to Australians in Hong Kong warning them that they could get caught up in the new law as it applies to anyone in the territory.
"This law could be interpreted broadly. You can break the law without intending to.
"The maximum penalty under this law in Hong Kong is life imprisonment."
Originally published as China's ominous threat to Australia