Japan and Australia expressed “grave concern” Thursday about China’s imposition of a national security law on Hong Kong, saying the region’s autonomy has been eroded.
During their first virtual summit, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison agreed that the two nations will step up preparations to resume limited travel among businesspeople, with Tokyo enforcing an entry ban on 129 countries and regions amid the global coronavirus pandemic.
“The leaders shared grave concern about the imposition of a national security law in Hong Kong, as it eroded Hong Kong’s autonomy under the ‘One Country Two Systems’ framework,” a statement issued after the talks said.
The legislation outlaws acts of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces. It also allows suspects to be transferred to mainland China for prosecution.
Japan views Australia as a “quasi ally” in the Asia-Pacific region, where China’s growing clout is raising regional concern.
Abe and Morrison said they strongly oppose any unilateral and coercive actions seeking to change the status quo in the East and South China seas.
Tokyo and Canberra have been strengthening economic and defense cooperation in recent years with negotiations underway for a bilateral agreement that will facilitate joint military exercises and other activities of their defense forces in each other’s countries.
The virtual summit came amid growing tensions between Australia and China, triggered by Canberra’s calls for an independent international probe into the origin and spread of the novel coronavirus. The virus was first detected in China’s Wuhan last December.
Abe and Morrison agreed on the need for an “impartial, independent and comprehensive” evaluation of the response by the World Health Organization to COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the virus.
They also said it is important for Taiwan to participate in the WHO’s general assembly as an observer, though Beijing opposes its inclusion as a violation of its “One China” policy.