New travel advice from the Commonwealth is warning Australians could face “arbitrary detention” if they travel to mainland China.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) also said Chinese government authorities have detained foreigners because they were allegedly “endangering national security”.
DFAT’s advice against travelling to China, and anywhere internationally, remains in place due to the coronavirus pandemic.
However, Aussies may seek an exemption from the federal government to travel overseas, under special circumstances.
The new advice shared by DFAT’s Smartraveller service comes as tensions between Australia and China continue to lengthen, following the Morrison government’s push for a global inquiry into China’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This move saw Beijing urge its citizens not to travel to Australia due to what it said was a spike in racism towards Chinese visitors.
Alongside New Zealand, China remained Australia’s largest tourism market before the coronavirus pandemic.
Travel advice change prompted by law crackdown in Hong Kong, says academic
Prime Minister Scott Morrison also confirmed last week that the government was “actively considering” offering safe haven to Hong Kongers, ABC News reported, after controversial national security laws were imposed on the special administrative region by China.
Under these new laws, which came into effect last week, Beijing will punish so-called crimes of secession, subversion, terrorism, and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison, according to ABC News.
Moreover, asking foreign countries to sanction or take any form of action against Hong Kong or China could be considered as collusion with foreign forces under the law.
Hundreds of people were reportedly arrested on Wednesday, last week, after demonstrators took to the streets to protest the new laws, which were introduced by China to suppress dissenters.
Feng Chongyi, an Associate Professor in China Studies at the University of Technology Sydney, told the national broadcaster that he believes the change to Australia’s travel advice was prompted by the security law’s introduction in Hong Kong.
“I think it is a precautional response given that the Hong Kong version of the National Security Law has been so broad and vague,” he said.
“In a sense that it subjects almost everyone into arbitrary detention.”
When asked by ABC News about the change in Australia’s advice, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperon Zhao Lijian said he was unaware of the relevant information but the Chinese government “always protects foreigners’ human rights”.
“Any law-abiding foreign citizen in China has nothing to worry about,” he said.
“We hope that relevant sides will be prudent with their words and deeds and work to contribute to China-Australia relations.”
Featured image source: iStock/bingdian