Foreign Minister Winston Peters says Cabinet didn’t consider giving Hong Kong people a “safe haven” visa following the passing of Beijing’s security law as the country needed to take care of its own people post-Covid-19.
When asked whether he had contemplated the “safe haven” visa, Mr Peters said: “No.”
He said the country was facing the risk thousands of people would be unemployed due to the economic downturn following the pandemic.
“We’ve got to keep our mind focused on there.”
He said the paper that went to Cabinet didn’t ask them to consider the idea of a “safe haven”.
A number of other countries, including Australia and the UK, had made offers of "safe haven" pathways for people in Hong Kong to get out of the region.
It follows this morning’s announcement that New Zealand would suspend its extradition treaty with Hong Kong, which Mr Peters said Cabinet agreed on unanimously.
Mr Peters said this afternoon it was because it had become clear the security legislation was undermining Beijing’s 1997 commitment to the "one country, two systems" policy which granted Hong Kong autonomy for 50 years.
“The law is now no longer what it was and, therefore, the extradition agreement we had doesn't stand up," he said.
“If they should go back to honouring the commitment of 1997, then we’ll revisit our situation as well.”
It also comes as Mr Peters launched his party’s election campaign last Sunday calling for a “fundamental reset” of immigration policy.
He said the scale of immigration could cut Kiwis out of jobs and undercut pay rates.
“With unemployment soaring, sustaining employment in the downturn is our priority,” Mr Peters said at NZ First’s campaign launch.
He said being made the Immigration Minister was a bottom line demand should he be in the position to negotiate the formation of a coalition Government after the election.
In June, soon after the security law had passed, one international student from Hong Kong living in New Zealand told 1 NEWS they hoped the Government would consider a safe haven scheme as a “last resort” to those threatened by the security law.
“Many just want to flee Hong Kong.”
The student, who had been in New Zealand for six years, said their student visa would be expiring at the end of the year and they were scared to go home.
“It’s really scary and it doesn’t sound like home anymore … I’m worried about my own safety.”
In June, Beijing passed a security law which criminalised what it defined as secessionist, subversive and terrorist acts. It also banned what it deemed collusion with foreigners.
Critics said the law effectively ended the "one country, two systems" framework and would stifle freedom of speech and protest. Penalties for breaking the law included a life behind bars.