Open letter from Chinese-Canadian groups boosts Hong Kong government, blasts protesters

Expect we will see more of these debates emerge, some legitimate, some bots, some home-grown, some planted:

As protesters in Hong Kong continue to rally against Beijing’s tightening grip on the city, dozens of Chinese-Canadian groups have delivered a different message, voicing support for the enclave’s China-backed government and singling out violent “extremists” among the demonstrators.

The open letter published recently in Vancouver and Toronto Chinese-language newspapers is raising questions about who was behind the statement, with some fingers pointing at the Chinese government and its influence machine.

The authors of the message deny any outside involvement.

The advertisement, signed by over 200 organizations across the country, complained about radicals causing violence, defended China’s “inalienable” right to control Hong Kong, and appealed to Chinese Canadians’ ethnic identity.

“We support the rule of law and stability in Hong Kong, oppose the violent acts of a small number of extremists, oppose any Hong Kong independence movement … and support the Hong Kong government maintaining law and order,” the letter in Ming Pao newspaper said. “Hong Kong is China’s inalienable sovereign territory; Hong Kong’s affairs are China’s internal affairs; and we oppose any foreign interference.”

The ad marks a contrast to what happened on the streets of Hong Kong itself, where hundreds of thousands of people demonstrated against a law that would have allowed extradition of alleged criminals to mainland China. Critics feared the legislation could be used to dispatch enemies of Beijing to a legal system controlled by the Communist Party. Some observers view the mass protests also as a general pushback against China’s growing control of the city since the U.K. gave up control of it in 1997.

The movement shows little sign of ending soon. Even as Carry Lam, the Beijing-backed chief executive of the Hong Kong government, announced Tuesday the extradition law is now is dead and work on it was a “total failure,” critics expressed skepticism about the government’s intentions.

Why would groups purporting to represent the Chinese diaspora in democratic Canada take sides against such demonstrators?

Many of those signatories are shell groups beholden to Beijing, and the message was likely dictated by China’s representatives here, charges Cheuk Kwan of the Toronto Association for Democracy in China.

“These are basically fake organizations … They are what I call the mouthpieces of the Chinese consulate,” he said. “This is a very clearly United Front effort by the Chinese government … If it’s not instituted directly, then indirectly.”

Kwan was referring to the United Front Work Department, the Chinese Communist Party offshoot that works to influence ethnic Chinese and political and economic elites in other countries. Its role has expanded greatly under current Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

Still, he admitted that Chinese Canadians are divided on the Hong Kong protests, with some supporting the demonstrators, and others wishing for a return to civil order.

Fenella Sung, spokesman for Vancouver’s Friends of Hong Kong, agreed that the “linguistic craftiness” of the letter seems typical of the United Front. She pointed especially to its appeal to ethnic nationalism, with statements that Chinese Canadians are “all sons of China and members of the Chinese people,” and “blood is thicker than water.”

There is “not a word about being Canadians, as if they have nothing to do with Canada,” said Sung. “The text of the ad could be used anywhere in the world.”

She also said it blatantly distorted the facts, suggesting protesters caused scores of injuries one day early in the event, when independent human rights groups blamed police action.

Yu Zhuowen of the Chinese Freemasons group in Toronto and one of the organizers of the statement, denied any government was involved, calling the letter a heartfelt appeal to restore peace in Hong Kong, his own hometown.

Yu said protesters misunderstand the extradition legislation — which he argued would protect the city from mainland-based criminals — and faced the same kind of police response they would have in Canada.

“We don’t want to see Hong Kong like this. I have my family in Hong Kong, too, I don’t want them to get hurt,” he said about the demonstrations. “In Canada or America, when the protesters come out, the police get them away right away, they use a lot of violence, too.”

Canada could see Hong Kong immigration bump after crackdown on protesters, experts say

Interesting. The first wave included many who were termed “astronauts,” given breadwinners who maintained their lucrative business activities in Hong Kong while their families settled in Vancouver.

Will be interesting to see if possible future waves repeat that pattern:

Vancouver resident Ivy Li knows what it’s like to flee political uncertainty. She left Hong Kong in 1982 as a university student.

“I knew Hong Kong would eventually be handed over to the (Chinese) regime,” she said. “My friends and I, we feared Hong Kong would be totally under the dictatorial rule.”

On June 4, 1989, Li was in Toronto when she saw the infamous tank scene unfold on TV, where a man stood in front of a line of tanks in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square after Chinese soldiers massacred hundreds, if not thousands, of protesters.

Li, now 63, watched in despair from her Vancouver home as police in Hong Kong shot rubber bullets and used tear gas against protesters who had amassed Wednesday to block a meeting on a proposed extradition bill that has become a lightning rod for concerns over greater Chinese control and erosion of civil liberties in the former British colony.

Hong Kong Police Commissioner Stephen Lo Wai-chung later said the “serious clashes” outside the government building forced police to use pepper spray, bean bag rounds, rubber bullets and tear gas.

At least 72 protesters were hospitalized and two are in serious condition, according to the Hong Kong Hospital Authority.

Some Hong Kong residents are now making arrangements to leave, saying the extradition law, if passed, would be the last straw in years of increasingly aggressive authoritarian moves from China. Members of the Hong Kong diaspora around the world and in Vancouver are watching as immigration lawyers prepare to help clients make the arrangements.

“The younger generation … and the people who decided to stay and are now fighting, they have my utmost admiration,” said Li.

Li and her family are among tens of thousands of immigrants from Hong Kong who left the city in the years surrounding what is known as the “handover” — when the United Kingdom gave control of Hong Kong back to China in 1997.

Under the “One Country, Two Systems” arrangement, Hong Kong was supposed to retain a high degree of autonomy, including an independent judiciary for 50 years until the year 2047.

The flow of migrants out of Hong Kong transformed Vancouver. Vancouverite and urban planner Andy Yan joked that Vancouver is like the 18th district of Hong Kong.

“Vancouver has a special relationship with Hong Kong,” he said.

There are 74,120 people in Metro Vancouver who were born in Hong Kong, according to 2016 census data.

Historically, most of the Chinese immigration to Vancouver came from the southern part of China, specifically from Hong Kong, said Yan. Cantonese, the dialect spoken by Hong Kongers, was the most commonly spoken Chinese language in Metro Vancouver homes until 2016 according to census data, said Yan. In 2016, Mandarin overtook Cantonese.

But at least one Vancouver immigration lawyer is expecting to see a bump in the number of people travelling from Hong Kong to Vancouver — in the way of international students.

There are more barriers to immigration in Canada now compared to the ’80s and ’90s, said Will Tao, which means many Hong Kong families may compromise and send their children to Canada to go to school, with plans to follow them afterwards if possible.

“I would assume more parents would want their children educated abroad, particularly pursuing North American education, possibly as a path of immigration.”

Immigration from Hong Kong has dropped off in the past two decades, but with growing uncertainty between the territory and China, Hong Kong residents may start looking at their options, he said.

Tao is already seeing an increasing number of inquiries from clients who once lived in Canada, either as children or as parents of children, then moved back to Hong Kong some time in the last two decades, and now want to return to Canada. This movement may not necessarily be captured by immigration numbers because many are already Canadian citizens.

“The political environment, the abundance of home-owning opportunities, or the well-being of their children and reuniting the family here, are all factors in that process,” he said.

Two weeks ago, Dominic Yeung, 30, sat at the dinner table with his family. They were discussing which country they could move to. The family has lived in Hong Kong all their lives.

“We were actively seeking, researching where we could go — where we could possibly afford to go,” said Yeung, a lawyer, in a phone interview from Hong Kong.

It was the first time the family had been serious about leaving their home.

Yeung recalls the Umbrella Movement in 2014, where protesters occupied the central business district in Hong Kong for months in a bid to bring universal suffrage to Hong Kong.

But even after the Chinese government refused to give in to those demands, Yeung and his family did not think to leave.

“It was nothing we had not dealt with before,” Yeung told Star Vancouver, referring to the lack of voting rights in Hong Kong under British rule.

“Liberty is still here. The rule of law is still here.”

But Yeung, like many others, now believes the extradition law amendment would allow China to implement a new rule of law, one that has little regard for human rights or fair trials.

“That is a different beast that we are dealing with,” he said.

“Make no mistake, if this passes, Hong Kong will be forever different. This is what this is about.”

Source: Canada could see Hong Kong immigration bump after crackdown on protesters, experts say

The re-returnees: They came to Hong Kong for the hustle. Now, with China encroaching, they’re coming back to Canada

Interesting trend of returnees:

The sheen of opportunity and adventure that made Hong Kong into one of the world’s great gateways – the City of Life, as it calls itself – has dulled for some as the cost of living rises and the grip of China tightens.

According to a recent survey, nearly a third of the Hong Kong population is thinking about leaving the city of 7.4 million. Canada, as it has in the past, is playing an outsize role in their search for an alternative; Hong Kong has boasted an estimated 300,000 Canadian passport holders, enough to rank the Asian financial centre as the equivalent of one of Canada’s 20 most populous cities.

Many Hong Kong residents fled the island for Canada before it came under Chinese rule in 1997 – fearing Beijing’s power. They later returned for jobs. Now, the current of human movement has once again shifted, moving back toward Canada. It is for some a third cross-Pacific move. They call themselves the “re-returnees.”

“People are thinking twice about staying in Hong Kong,” said Eugene Ho, an entrepreneur who is president of the local University of British Columbia alumni chapter. It is holding a session on Tuesday to guide people through the process of moving back to Canada, from sorting through taxes to securing a mortgage and finding the right school for their kids.

A third of Hong Kong’s population wants to leave, says a survey released by the Chinese University of Hong Kong earlier this month. Their top reasons were “too much political dispute” and social rifts, overcrowding and dissatisfaction with local political institutions. Fifty-one per cent of those between the ages of 18 and 30 want out. They cited Canada as their most desired destination. Canadian immigration data show that the number of people from Hong Kong applying for permanent residency in Canada increased by 50 per cent in 2016, to 1,360, and has remained at that elevated level.

What those figures do not count, however, are the people who already hold Canadian passports, and who are slipping back across the Pacific.

They are people such as Harjeet Grewal, 39, a Cantonese speaker who was born in Hong Kong but is disturbed by its changing political environment and influence from Beijing. “You have to be careful what you are saying and I don’t want to live in that kind of climate for the long term,” Ms. Grewal says.

John Luciw has his own reasons. Mr. Luciw, 51, a long-time Hong Kong resident who plays in a Tragically Hip cover band, runs a news site for expats and is now so done with the city’s brutal cost pressures that, “I don’t even know if I’m going to come back for a visit.”

And 45-year-old Andrew Loo, a banker, decamped for Vancouver to escape a high-pressure education system in a city where he was once told his six-year-old daughter was “average at best” when she interviewed for a primary-school spot.

Mr. Loo embodies the shifting currents that have carried people to and from Hong Kong. Born in the city to a father in the shipping industry, his family moved to Vancouver when he was 10. They were, like many families, worried about what would happen to Hong Kong when it was returned to Chinese rule in 1997, an anxiety that prompted an extraordinary tide of emigration, particularly to Canada, which offered relative proximity and a welcoming environment. In 1994 alone, 48,000 people arrived from Hong Kong.

But when the worst fears about Beijing rule failed to materialize, the tide very quickly reversed course. Mr. Loo was among the droves who returned – a flock of 65,000 between 1996 and 2011, according to a South China Morning Post analysis.

In the summer of 2001, he and the woman who became his wife travelled to Hong Kong for the Dragon Boat Carnival. Canadian-educated and a Cantonese speaker, he found himself in demand. “I had two job offers in a very short span of time,” he said. Hong Kong, the land of opportunity, had hooked another young Canadian.

It’s “a very easy place to get used to,” he said. Taxes are low, jobs are relatively plenty, salaries can be high and domestic help inexpensive.

He married and had three children, building a comfortable career as a banker, with three nannies and a driver. But he began to think about Canada as his three children began to move through a fiercely competitive school system that, famously, interviews toddlers. “It’s just ridiculous,” Mr. Loo said, not to mention stressful – both for students and their parents living in the city.

He adds, “there’s no such thing as work-life balance.” He wasn’t the only one raising questions. “Our friends are around the same age and their kids are the same. And they’re all thinking the same thing” – go to Canada. In 2017, Mr. Loo and his family moved back. His daughter was 10, the same age as Mr. Loo when he first moved to Canada.

There is “a bit of symmetry there,” he says.

Others are coming behind them. Take Mr. Luciw, who arrived in Hong Kong in 1999 and dove into the thrills of being young and “wild and crazy” in the city. He became the general manager of AsiaXPAT.com, a news and discussion site for expatriates. But he himself is now keen to exit expat life. “As I’ve gotten older, this place has lost its lustre for me,” he says. He has two children, and “when you have kids here, it sucks. It’s expensive. There’s a lack of things to do. You may think it’s a paradise, but it’s not.”

He’s already sold his apartment, booked his tickets to Canada – after one last show with Phantom Power, his Hip cover band – and picked the minivan he intends to buy. He wants his kids to live in a house with a backyard, not a cramped apartment an elevator ride from the outdoors. “I was watching them not have a childhood I think they deserved, that I can give them by being a Canadian citizen,” he said.

Ms. Grewal, meanwhile, cites the changes in a city that is increasingly being brought under the thumb of political masters in Beijing. Chinese security services have seized people from the city, while new bridge and rail links have more deeply enmeshed Hong Kong with mainland China. Activists for democracy and independence have been banned from political participation, and a proposed new rule outlaws insults to the Chinese national anthem.

“I just felt constricted,” Ms. Grewal says.

When Keelan Chapman moved back to Hong Kong three years ago, he didn’t expect to find himself with a front-row seat to a Canadian exodus.

Mr. Chapman runs the Canadian Real Estate Investment Centre Hong Kong, a company he created three years ago to help people in Asia buy property in Canada. He figured his clients – who meet him in Hong Kong’s skyscraper forests of buzzy coffee shops and swish boardrooms – would be investors moving cash into Vancouver’s exuberant housing market.

What he has found instead is people looking to buy homes for themselves.

“My main clients in Hong Kong tend to be Canadians looking to return to Canada,” he says.

Hong Kong’s participation in China’s economic rise has helped make the city wealthy. But it has also made Mandarin an increasingly important language for those in business and banking, tilting advantage toward job seekers from mainland China. Indeed, that may be exactly how Beijing wants it, suggests David Zweig, a Canadian who is a scholar at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, where he has researched the movements of Chinese students.

China “may be very glad to have a new cohort of young college graduates come down here, graduate and then work here – and replace the Hong Kongers,” he said.

At the same time, at least some of those loading children and possessions on planes bound for Canada are being replaced by younger people winging their way into Hong Kong. Some of what drew Mr. Loo to Hong Kong two decades ago remains true today. Jobs are available, taxes are low and salaries can be high.

Kale Law, 26, was born in Hong Kong but moved to Canada with his mother in 1997. They came back to Hong Kong, where he attended high school, before he returned to Canada for university. Now, he’s back in Hong Kong again, working at a small content company with an office in a warehouse converted into a co-working space.

“Hong Kong seems to be the crown jewel for a lot of young professionals wanting to hustle,” he says. Even Ms. Grewal may come back. She has yet to find a job in Canada, while she has a half-dozen offers in Hong Kong. She also finds herself chafing at Vancouver’s slower pace. “It just doesn’t fulfill me the same way Hong Kong does,” she says.

Still, Mr. Law isn’t sure how long he can last. He figures he will stay until he is 30, at which point he, too, may join the march out of the city – alongside his mother and father.

“A lot of the older generation, which is my parents’ generation, they can’t wait to get out of Hong Kong,” he said.

Source: The re-returnees: They came to Hong Kong for the hustle. Now, with China encroaching, they’re coming back to Canada

Meet the wealthy immigrants at the centre of Vancouver’s housing debate

Good in-depth profile of some of the background and stories regarding mainland Chinese immigrants:

The mainlanders are the most recent of several waves of Chinese immigration to Vancouver. But they are not from the places familiar to Vancouverites for the past 160 years, like rural Guangdong, Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan.

The 139,890 who have arrived since 2000, according to federal statistics, are from Nanjing, Shanghai, Harbin, Beijing, Guangzhou, Qingdao.

And they are a kind of immigrant Canada has not seen before, at least not in these numbers. They are here with money and confidence after surfing the wave of one of the world’s biggest economic booms, the result of people from Regina to Rome buying stuff stamped “Made in China.” The boom produced 3.6 million millionaires by 2014, up from 2.4 million in 2013.

…But they wonder why Canadians are ready to take their money for their houses – perhaps more money than they thought they would ever get – and then complain.

“A woman I know, her house cost $400,000 19 years ago and she sold the house for more than $2-million. She was happy, she has a studio now for her painting,” Sherry Qin said over coffee at UBC’s Old Barn Community Centre with three of her friends, including Ms. Yin. They like to gather here because one member of the group lives in a townhouse nearby.

And they do not understand why, if Canadians do not like the way things are, their governments will not change the rules – for investment, for preserving old houses, for citizenship, for paying taxes, for charges on vacant houses – instead of blaming newcomers.

And they were as divided as others over B.C.’s new tax for foreign buyers. Sherry Qin said B.C. should remain a free market. Anita He said it will send a message to all Chinese: “We don’t like you.” Alan Yu said it was a good idea. “I think it’s good to suppress the speculation in the real-estate market and it helps to fulfill the needs of affordable housing. I hope it could lower the housing price in Vancouver.”

But such government regulation is not new to them.

Chinese cities, which control who can be defined as a legal resident, are imposing their own restrictions. Shanghai has strict rules. In February, after house prices had jumped by 21 per cent in the previous years, it tightened the approvals for non-resident buyers even more.

Vancouver’s new arrivals also are puzzled why Canadians complain about wealthy people moving here when their government decided which kinds of immigrants it wanted.

“The government just chose rich people so they have lots of money,” said Mr. Liu, who immigrated to Canada in 2005 through the skilled-worker stream, not as an investor, even though he owned a chain of Best Buy-like stores in China. He is doing well, with a home he bought in Kerrisdale so the family could be close to Crofton House, where his daughter went to school.

(The proportion of immigrant-investors to Canada never exceeded more than 4.1 per cent of the total number of permanent residents. About 8,500 immigrant investors came from mainland China to B.C. between 2000 and 2015, along with 23,000 family members. In the same period, B.C. accepted 23,000 skilled workers and their 33,000 family members.)

Source: Meet the wealthy immigrants at the centre of Vancouver’s housing debate – The Globe and Mail

Canadian or Chinese? Foreign Citizenship Brought Into Question | The Diplomat

Dual nationals, when in the country of their other nationality, are generally not deemed to be Canadian by that country (see Travelling as a dual citizen).

So “while a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian” applies within Canada, it is not necessarily recognized by foreign governments. And while consular officials can and do make representation in such cases, their effectiveness can be limited given this reality.

But requiring Canadian-born citizens of Chinese descent to become Chinese citizens in a country which does not recognize dual citizenship and where normal legal protections and due process does not apply takes this to a new level:

Canadians of Hong Kong descent now have another consideration when traveling to China. Late last month two teenagers born and raised in Canada were denied 10-year visas to China based on the fact that their parents were born in Hong Kong. Perhaps more alarmingly for the hundreds of thousands of Hongkongers who have fled to the safe harbor of Canada, and other democracy-friendly nations, the teens were told that they must travel to China as Chinese nationals.

These are not standalone cases either. Hong Kong Chinese language media have reported that a number of first generation Canadians, who were born in Hong Kong, are being forced into the same situation; and the Hong Kong-born, Australian author of this article has also experienced the same treatment by Chinese visa authorities.

Ottawa is now querying Beijing over these recent cases, and have asked China to clarify any changes they have made to visa requirements and migration laws. Canadian Member of Parliament Jenny Kwan, who was born in Hong Kong, said she pressed Foreign Minister Stephane Dion, urging him to look into the visa situation.

“The change in practice should be of grave concern to Canadians; after all, a Canadian is a Canadian. As such, should all Canadians not be treated the same?” Kwan said.

The change would effectively mean that Canadian citizens traveling to China will no longer have the privilege of protection from the Canadian embassy.

As stipulated in Article 3 of China’s nationality law, China does not recognize dual nationality. This law naturally extended to Hong Kong citizens as per the 1996 pre-handover “Explanations” issued by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress. By extension, Article 5 of the nationality laws states that children of Chinese who have settled abroad “shall not have Chinese nationality.”

However, the reverse is also true under Article 8, which states any person who applies for naturalization as a Chinese national shall acquire Chinese nationality upon approval of their application — and shall not retain foreign nationality. That means that if these Canadians do indeed apply for Chinese citizenship to travel to Mainland China, then it could be argued that they are renouncing their Canadian nationality.

At a regular press conference in late June, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei responded to questions about the situation, stating that the visa reciprocity arrangement reached by the Chinese Foreign Ministry and the Canadian Embassy in China on February 28, 2015, would be strictly adhered to, and that both countries would issue multi-entry visas, valid for up to 10 years, to each other’s citizens for the purposes of business, tourism, and family visits.

Hong stressed that China has been acting in strict accordance with the reciprocity arrangement and that reports about China making adjustments to or tightening its policy were not true:

“We handle visas, travel documents, and passports applications by Chinese citizens from Hong Kong in accordance with the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), the Nationality Law of the PRC and the Interpretation by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress on Some Questions Concerning Implementation of the Nationality Law of the PRC in the Hong Kong … As for what will be granted in the end, it is based on the personal information about the applicant and related documents. Since the Chinese government resumed its exercise of sovereignty over Hong Kong, the Chinese Foreign Ministry has been asking its overseas diplomatic missions to offer all-out services and assistance to Chinese citizens from Hong Kong living in foreign countries in accordance with the law, facilitating their travel, work and stay in all parts of the world.”

This statement raises a few concerns of its own. The stress on “Chinese citizens from Hong Kong living in foreign countries” seems to dance around the question of the nationality of ethnic Chinese Canadians, or ethnic Chinese from any other nation for that matter. It can also easily be misconstrued, misinterpreted, or reinterpreted to any other number of meanings.

Source: Canadian or Chinese? Foreign Citizenship Brought Into Question | The Diplomat

ICYMI: Anxiety in Vancouver over Hong Kong’s future

A different angle on diaspora politics:

Vancouver has long been intimately tied to this kind of soul-searching about the future of Hong Kong.

Hundreds of thousands of Hong Kong Chinese became Canadian citizens in the late 1980s and 1990s after the Tiananmen Square massacre in Beijing in 1989 and in the years leading up to 1997. But many later returned to work and live in Hong Kong as mainland China prospered economically.

At the same time, a generation of Chinese and non-Chinese Canadians from Vancouver also packed their bags and headed to Hong Kong seeking adventure, work and ties to their heritage as political fears gave way to the lure of interesting opportunities — often, again, tied to the rise of mainland China.

As such, both groups, especially those with more established business interests, are generally more constrained to speak up publicly for Hong Kong’s interests, though many will privately sigh.

“Concerns for Hong Kong go hand-in-hand with needing to also consider their beneficial relationship with China,” observes Helen Hok-Sze Leung, associate professor at Simon Fraser University, who grew up in Hong Kong.

Lam and others, however, are part of a younger generation in Vancouver who relate with peers in Hong Kong who have become more strident in identifying themselves as being part of a Hong Kong that is culturally separate from mainland China.

“It’s the city where I grew up so I have stronger ties and I naturally feel bad” about what is happening, says Lam.

“I go onto Twitter and Weibo and see Hong Kong young people writing (in the local dialect) of Cantonese and declaring themselves as Hong Kongers first,” says Leung. “This is a generation that was born under (mainland) Chinese rule and yet their sense of local (Hong Kong) identity and asserting that culture seems stronger than in my generation, and this percolates to migrants (who move to Vancouver).”

Lee, the lecturer, recently spoke about independent film Ten Years, which became an unexpected hit in Hong Kong when it was released in mid-December. The film consists of five ominous short stories hypothesizing what Hong Kong will be like 10 years from now. In one, cab drivers who speak Cantonese instead of Mandarin have their livelihoods clipped when they are prohibited from picking up certain passengers. In another, books are censored and banned ones are pulled off shelves.

According to Reuters, the film broke box office records in Hong Kong for attendance, but around a month later, after mainland Chinese state-controlled publication “denounced Ten Years in a January editorial,” the filmmakers were told by cinemas in Hong Kong they couldn’t continue showing it because of scheduling issues.

Source: Anxiety in Vancouver over Hong Kong’s future

How Canadian are Hong Kong’s 300,000 Chinese-Canadians? – The Globe and Mail

Interesting piece on Chinese Canadian expatriates in Hong Kong, and how they maintain their Canadian identity. As always, identity is more complex than ‘bumper stickers’ like citizens of convenience would suggest.

Surprising that Yuen Pau Woo, of the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada didn’t mention this study in his presentation to the Senate Committee examining C-24 last week:

They found that “the lack of opportunities in Canada,” rather than any preference for China, was the primary reason for almost all of these youth moving to Hong Kong. Many worked in fields such as finance where they felt Canada had a glass ceiling for ethnic-Chinese employees: “The nature and systemic discrimination of the Canadian job market pushed many new-generation youth to seek alternative job opportunities.”

Most of them, however, spent much of their time in Hong Kong attempting to maintain a “Canadian” lifestyle. “This,” the researchers note, “includes drinking in bars, watching hockey, reading Canadian newspapers, and drinking Starbucks coffee.” Tim Hortons, it should be noted, is not available in Hong Kong.

“While I am at work, in a break,” one of their research subjects says, “I’m watching a Canucks game through my iPhone.”

And furthermore, they found that the Chinese-Canadians weren’t fitting in to local Hong Kong social circles, because they were determined to keep their Canadian ties: “This group of Chinese-Canadian youth seem to have made a conscious choice not to hang out with local youth, due to their resistance to local Chinese culture. Indeed, their desire for Canadian connections was manifested in the patterns of their social circles, which also showed their detachment from Hong Kong society.”

Most, they found, were experiencing some form of culture shock – while they had the language skills and citizenship necessary to work and live in Hong Kong, they did not feel like Chinese, even if they had lived there for years. “Being Canadian, many felt that they came with a Canadian perspective that differentiated them from local Chinese. They also tended to use Canadian cultural values and practices to distinguish themselves from local Chinese.”

A majority described themselves as Canadian first and Chinese second. And, most importantly, almost all described themselves as “tentatively temporary” immigrants, who fully intended to return to Canada, which they saw as “home,” to put down roots and raise their families at some point in the future.

Another such study, conducted in 2012 in India, found the same result: Second-generation Indian-Canadians living in India saw themselves as Canadians living in India for convenience and money, not as Indians who’d once lived in Canada for convenience.

While there are undoubtedly some Canadian passport holders living abroad who are simply using the citizenship as a convenience, actual research suggests that the majority of such people are loyal Canadians who are using their international connections to benefit their country – which, as they see it, is Canada.

How Canadian are Hong Kong’s 300,000 Chinese-Canadians? – The Globe and Mail.