World Politics

Australia wants to attract 'seriously talented' people leaving Hong Kong, minister says

Key Points
  • Australia is "specifically targeting" students and highly talented individuals from Hong Kong who will be able to contribute to its economy, said Alan Tudge, Australia's minister for population, cities and urban infrastructure.
  • Canberra announced last week that it would be offering help to people wanting to move out of Hong Kong after the implementation of the new national security law on June 30.
  • "Australia is an immigrant nation and we're constantly chasing talent from around the world," Tudge said.
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Australia to offer 5-year visas to Hong Kongers with a path to citizenship, says minister

Australia is "specifically targeting" students and highly talented individuals from Hong Kong who will be able to contribute to its economy, a minister told CNBC this week.

Canberra announced last week that it would be offering help to people wanting to move out of Hong Kong after the implementation of the new national security law on June 30. Australia's decision followed that of Taiwan and the United Kingdom, which also offered help to Hong Kongers looking to resettle elsewhere.

"Australia is an immigrant nation and we're constantly chasing talent from around the world," Australian minister for population, cities and urban infrastructure, Alan Tudge, told CNBC's "Capital Connection" on Tuesday.

The country announced last week that "skilled and graduate visa-holders" would have their visas extended by five years, and that there would be a "path to permanent residency" at the end of that period.

Hong Kong is a former British colony that was returned to Chinese rule in 1997, but the territory is granted more freedoms than other cities on the mainland. Hong Kong has a largely separate economic and legal system, and is allowed limited election rights.

We'll be specifically targeting students and the really seriously talented individuals in Hong Kong who will be, if you like, be able to contribute to the economy back here.
Alan Tudge
Australia's minister for population, cities and urban infrastructure

Following months of sometimes violent protests in the city, the Chinese central government introduced a new legislation last month, aimed at prohibiting secession, subversion of state power, terrorism activities and foreign interference. Critics, however, fear that the law may encroach on Hong Kong's freedoms.

The "circumstances have changed" and some will "be looking to set up shop elsewhere," said Tudge. He said the decision to offer paths to permanent residency to Hong Kongers is "consistent" with what his country always does. 

Separately, Australia last week also advised its citizens against traveling to Hong Kong and suspended its extradition treaty with the city. Beijing called the moves a "gross interference in China's internal affairs."

Attracting talent and businesses

Australia has gone into recession, and Tudge said that's one of the reasons why it wants to attract skilled workers.

He noted that the recession is "devastating" for the hundreds of thousands of people who are unemployed and said the government's "absolute focus" is to grow the economy again and get people back to work.

"In part, that's what our reach-out to the super talent in Hong Kong and elsewhere is about," Tudge told CNBC. 

He also said: "We'll be specifically targeting students and the really seriously talented individuals in Hong Kong who will be, if you like, be able to contribute to the economy back here."

A woman heads towards a departure gate at Chek Lap Kok airport in Hong Kong.
Christian Keenan | Getty Images

Australia also wants to attract companies that want to move their regional headquarters out of Hong Kong.

Tudge said media, financial services and consulting firms have indicated they are looking to relocate operations, and Australia wants to make it attractive for them to set up shop in its cities.

Offering visas is one factor because it ensures that the company's critical staff can move to Australia and have a pathway to permanent residency and citizenship, he said.

As for high corporate taxes that could deter firms, Tudge said "boutique financial arrangements" could be offered to individual businesses.

Tax rates for companies in Australia go as high as to 30%, compared to 16.5% in Hong Kong.

— CNBC's Huileng Tan and Yen Nee Lee contributed to this report.