National

Diplomats watch ‘very volatile’ Hong Kong

By AAP Newswire

Australian diplomats are keeping a close eye on the "very volatile" situation in Hong Kong as pro-democracy protests enter their twentieth week.

Foreign Affairs department counsellor Elly Lawson confirmed Australian consular staff had been in regular contact with officials in Hong Kong, Beijing and Canberra.

Ms Lawson said the protests had settled into a pattern of more violent weekend actions, with less disruptive demonstrations during the week.

Protest numbers are down but there is an escalation in "more radical" elements engaged in more aggressive attacks and vandalism.

A radio-controlled explosive device was recently detonated near police vans.

Hong Kong police have responded by firing rounds of live ammunition at protesters in recent weeks.

"Many people have been injured, both protesters and police, some of them seriously," Ms Lawson told a Senate estimates hearing on Wednesday.

"We have consistently urged all sides to exercise restraint and to step back from intimidation and violence."

Foreign Affairs secretary Frances Adamson said her department was primarily focused on the safety of Australians travelling to or living in Hong Kong.

"That's been the focus of consular assistance and consular and travel advice as well," she told the committee.

"Obviously the situation in Hong Kong, its impact on the one country-two systems model, on the people of Hong Kong and the economy and indeed the freedoms that Hong Kong has enshrined in law is something that we have also been very attentive to."

Labor senator Kimberley Kitching asked whether Australia had considered giving asylum to those involved in the protests if the violence escalates and Beijing moves in.

"Senator, that's a hypothetical question that I'm not able to address in the way that you would like me to," Ms Adamson said.

Consular officials are in constant contact with stakeholders at home and abroad.

"We've been in very regular contact with the Hong Kong government and also with other influential groups in Hong Kong, including the business community of course, and also the Chinese representatives in Hong Kong," Ms Adamson said.

"Because one of the things we've been very keen to do is to urge restraint and to argue for a meaningful solution to the issues that have been raised and have now become so protracted and entrenched."

The committee was told there were roughly 100,000 Australians living in Hong Kong, and fewer people had travelled to the island since the protests began.

FIVE DEMANDS OF HONG KONG PROTESTERS:

* Full withdrawal of China extradition bill (achieved)

* For protests not to be characterised as a riot

* Amnesty for arrested protesters

* Independent inquiry into alleged police brutality

* Implementation of complete universal suffrage