Canada overtakes U.K. as destination for Hong Kong students amid mounting exodus

Of note:

Thousands of Hong Kong students are choosing to come to Canada over countries like the U.K. and Australia, with more and more of its citizens applying for study permits abroad and contributing to a mounting exodus amid China’s growing control over the region.

This year, Canada has approved 7,920 study permits to students coming from Hong Kong, up from about 6,300 in 2021, according to Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) data. Historically, Canada issued less than 3,000 annually — numbers that were eclipsed in the month of August 2022 alone.

The Hong Kong government’s increasing hard line against mass protests and China’s growing control over the region has coincided with more than 100,000 people leaving the region in the past two years, mostly to the United Kingdom, Australia, Singapore and Canada.

U.K. data shows just over 5,000 study permits were issued to Hong Kong students between January and September this year, while Australia issued just over 2,000 by Oct. 31.

“One country, two systems definitely never delivered,” said Ken Tung, president of the B.C.-based Civic Education Society.

“Hong Kongers realized that, and you can see people started moving.”

Pathway to permanent residency through education

Protests erupted across Hong Kong in 2019, sparked by an extradition bill that many of the city’s residents vehemently opposed, saying it would give the government powers to arbitrarily extradite anyone in Hong Kong to China to face the legal system there.

The protests began peacefully but would escalate with demonstrators clashing with police who have been accused of unlawful use of force. In the ensuing months, authorities arrested more than 10,000 people related to the protests, more than 2,900 of whom were prosecuted, according to figures released up to February 2022.

“You can see the freedom of Hong Kong, the democracy, the justice system, collapsing,” said Tung. “You can see all the talented people, all the people with resources, leaving Hong Kong. And I think Canada understands the situation.”

In 2021, Canada opened an expedited pathway for Hong Kong residents to receive Canadian permanent residency if they graduate through a designated post-secondary program. It will last until 2026.

In a statement, IRCC said it expects “this increased opportunity to remain in Canada permanently has encouraged many Hong Kongers to study here.”

Tung says Metro Vancouver and the Greater Toronto Area are the main regions where students are settling, with the pathway attracting people of all ages pursuing varying degrees of education.

“But even professionals, they can actually come to study a masters degree and strengthen their knowledge, and many of them, with a professional job, they’d like to learn something else,” he said.

“If that helps them to stay in Canada to contribute, I think that strengthens both sides — for them, and also for Canada.”

Source: Canada overtakes U.K. as destination for Hong Kong students amid mounting exodus

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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