The spat between the Australian government and that of China’s CCP
is well known by now. However, it is only recently that Australia’s PM, Scott Morrison, announced that Australia would grant students from Hong Kong a five-year extension to their visas in the wake of China’s new national security law. In addition, Australia is considering granting humanitarian visas for those pro-democracy leaders who are now in serious danger.
Unsurprisingly, the government of Xi Jinping is less than happy with this. While commenting on Scott Morrison’s announcement, federal Labor senator, Penny Wong stated that this move couldn’t compare with the late Bob Hawke’s sudden granting of permanent residence visas to Chinese students who were in Australia in 1989 at the time of the Tien amin Square massacre.
What many people fail to understand is that the Chinese government did not want these students to return as they probably knew about the massacre and would spread the news. Those same students, if they had returned to China and not undertaken any protests, would have had nothing to fear. While not denying his earlier achievements, the tears that the then PM, Bob Hawke, shed would prove to be very expensive ones.
We have no idea how many of the students in Australia at that time were pro-democracy. However, I have a friend whose father was a high ranking official in the CCP and she was sent to Australia to spy on pro-democracy students. She said this herself.
A year or two later the then Minister of Immigration, Gerry Hand, appeared on television and was asked by an interviewer if Australia’s family reunion policy, coupled with the grant of permanent residence visas to the roughly 20,000 students who were in the country in 1989, would mean that 300,000 additional immigrants would arrive over the next ten years. Mr Hand replied, “Yes,” a very forthright answer from a politician. Three days later he was no longer Immigration Minister.
While Bob Hawke had not done anything illegal, in hindsight it would seem that he had accepted some kind of implied quid pro quo from the Chinese government. This became apparent when, not long after he had left politics, Hawke became a highly paid consultant to the Chinese government. This was the very same government that had committed the 1989 massacre. What a reversal of sentiment!
I saw Bob Hawke in the early 2000s on television trying to convince the Aboriginal traditional owners of land in the Northern Territory to accept spent uranium waste from China in return for financial incentives. In the years since then a large pro-CCP Chinese diaspora has emerged in Australia. They have often clashed with Hong Kong students during demonstrations.
Let’s hope the present Australian government is much more careful about the granting of visas to the current Hong Kong students. We don’t want any more pro-Beijing students sneaking in. I think the current government will be much more circumspect than the Hawke government was. Additionally, we can be sure that Xi Jinping’s government will not be offering any “quid pro quos.”