Young Hong Kong dissidents were told Canada welcomed them. Why can’t they get visas?

Of note:

It wasn’t an inherently risky choice — he just heeded calls on social media to attend a public gathering to mark a student’s death at the height of anti-government protests. 

However, it was a decision that may have wrecked his future in Canada.

Clad in all black, he ventured out to join the event but as soon as he and four friends got off the bus in Hong Kong’s Central District, police stopped them. Authorities found a laser pointer in his backpack and charged him in 2019 with possession of a weapon with the intent to assault.

After serving seven months in a youth rehab centre in Lantau Island, the 20-year-old was released last June and planned to start his undergraduate study in Toronto, where he finished high school as an international student.

However, more than five months since he applied for a student visa and submitted thousands of pages of translated legal documents, the Hong Konger is still waiting for a decision from the Canadian visa post in the former British colony, now part of China.

Pro-democracy advocates in Canada say they have started to see visa-seekers from Hong Kong whose applications — a first step to access asylum in this country — have been stalled or refused, despite Ottawa’s public commitment to ease their passage here in light of the alarming human-rights situation there.

“These youngsters have been charged and imprisoned for wearing a mask or carrying laser pointers during demonstrations … arrested and convicted with trumped-up charges. To us, they’re political prisoners,” said Winnie Ng, chair of the Toronto Association for Democracy in China.

“The Canadian government had stated quite clearly that protest is a right and that convictions of these offences will not be a ground for inadmissibility to Canada.”

In 2020, after a new national security law took effect in Hong Kong, Ottawa announced a string of new initiatives to welcome students and youth to “quickly” come to Canada on work and study permits as well as introduced new pathways for them to stay here permanently.

Marco Mendicino, then Canada’s immigration minister, expressed deep concerns about the imposition of the new law in Hong Kong, which critics say has reduced judicial autonomy and restricted freedoms for dissent. 

“Taking part in peaceful protests is not considered an offence in Canada. As such, arrests or convictions outside of Canada for taking part in peaceful protests are not grounds for inadmissibility to Canada,” Mendicino told a parliamentary committee meeting then.

“No one will be disqualified from making a legitimate asylum claim in Canada by virtue alone of having been charged under the new national security law, and neither will they be hindered in any way from availing themselves under any other immigration route.”SKIP ADVERTISEMENT

Calling himself a supporter for “peace, reason and non-violence,” the young man who was found guilty of possession of a weapon by carrying the laser pen said he is disappointed that Canada hasn’t followed through its commitment.

“We have translated all the legal documents into English and explained to the visa officers the circumstances of the arrest and conviction,” said the man, who studied for three years in high school in Toronto and returned to Hong Kong for the summer in 2019.

“We were told to bring a torch light or laser point to commemorate the death of a protester who died two days earlier. And police called the laser pointer a weapon. But there was no confrontation or violence.”

According to the immigration department, at least 10 Hong Kong residents have been refused a visa on criminal grounds to date under the special measures — but many have successfully taken advantage of those initiatives for a shot to settle in Canada.

By the end of last year, 668 Hong Kong nationals who have studied or worked in Canada had been granted permanent residence, 7,950 others issued a three-year open work permits and 7,786 visitors, students and work-permit holders had their temporary status extended.

However, it’s the applications that are stalled or refused on “protest-related” criminality that advocates are concerned about.

Data collected by Toronto Association for Democracy in China showed Hong Kong police charged 2,605 people in the 2019 pro-democracy protest movement. The top charges were rioting, conspiracy with the intent to cause riot, face covering, unlawful assembly and possession of offensive weapons and items with the intent to destroy or damage property.

One of those arrested and convicted of facial covering was Ken, a 23-year-old university graduate, who took part in a protest against police violence in late 2019. He was acquitted of one count of rioting but was sentenced to a two-month jail term for violating the anti-mask law.

He said he wore the gas mask for self-protection because police had previously used tear gas and pepper spray on protesters. As a result of the prosecution, he said he and his family became targets of cyberbullying and he was shunned by potential employers for his association with the political movement.

“I didn’t see a future for myself in Hong Kong. We were harassed online and I didn’t feel safe there. I just wanted to start a new chapter in life,” said Ken, who fled Hong Kong to an undisclosed country after his application to travel to Canada was recently refused.

“How can you seek political asylum in Canada if you can’t even get into the country? I understand Canadian officials need to feel safe about someone coming to their country and they do need to screen out criminals. I’m just disappointed that they don’t take a more lenient, humanitarian approach in handling our cases.”

Toronto immigration lawyer Barbara Jackman said immigration officials can deem someone criminally inadmissible if they assess and find Canadian equivalency of the offences. However, an officer also has the discretion to look to the facts behind the case.

“It all depends on how they’re going to look at them in terms of whether China has overreacted and is actually prosecuting lawful dissent and protest,” said Jackman, who is involved in both the young Hong Kongers’ cases.

“The Canadian government has announced all these programs for Hong Kong residents. They are all parts of the news releases and bulletins that they come up with. It’s an expression of the government’s views on the matter. Visa officers are supposed to take it into account.”

The immigration department could not comment on the two specific cases but said inadmissibility decisions are made on a case-by-case basis.

“Security screening and the overall complexity of a case are some factors that can result in higher processing times. Other factors include delays associated with requests for additional information from the applicant, and how easily information can be verified and whether the application is complete,” said department spokesperson Jeffrey MacDonald.

Source: Young Hong Kong dissidents were told Canada welcomed them. Why can’t they get visas?

Harassment of Hong Kong activists ‘never stops,’ even for those now living in Canada

Disturbing and unacceptible:

Alison Lai’s grandfather arrived as a refugee in Hong Kong seven decades ago, trading the chaos of 1950s China for the safety of what was then a British colony.

In 2020, China made a refugee of Ms. Lai, too.

The pro-democracy activist fled Hong Kong, the city of her birth, for Canada last year as Beijing tightened its grip over the territory it acquired from Britain in 1997. She was part of an exodus that has only expanded since China enacted a draconian national security law to silence critics in the city it had once promised would be allowed to retain Western-style civil liberties.

Ms. Lai, 32, is one of thousands of Hong Kongers looking to build a new life in Canada. Like her, some have been granted asylum as political refugees. Others are applying for immigration programs designed to attract well-educated foreigners.

In March, 2020, Ms. Lai’s life was turned upside down in a matter of hours after a friend warned that the Hong Kong police were looking for her. A veteran of the protests that rocked the city when citizens demanded accountability from the Beijing-backed government, she had been tear-gassed, beaten with batons and followed for days by police.

Her friends were being arrested, and it was time for her to leave. By the next day, she was on a flight out of Hong Kong.

She headed for Canada, claiming asylum upon arrival – just days before Canadian authorities closed the border as a pandemic measure.

It took a year for the government to officially recognize her under the United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees: someone who cannot return to their home “due to a well-founded fear of persecution based on race, religion, political opinion” or other factors.

She has begun building a life in Calgary. Educated as a journalist, she now works in retail. She and other Hong Kong activists have also founded a non-profit organization, the Soteria Humanitarian Institute, to help resettle Hong Kongers, Tibetans and Uyghurs fleeing persecution in China. In Greek mythology, Soteria is the goddess of safety and preservation from harm.

But as with many Hong Kong activists, a fresh start in Canada does not mean an end to harassment and attacks from the Chinese Communist Party and its proxies.

Each day, Ms. Lai is subjected to a torrent of abuse when she opens up Soteria’s social-media accounts.

She is the first Hong Kong refugee to allow The Globe and Mail to publish their name and city of residence, hoping to draw attention to what is happening to critics of China’s authoritarian government who now live in Canada.

As the spokesperson for the group, Ms. Lai is the main target of the anonymous harassers. She receives dozens of missives daily full of foul words and misogynistic attacks. She has been sent video clips of beheadings. “You are such a shame for a Hong Konger. … Be careful you don’t die in an accident,” one recent message said.

They have found out where she works and know her daily routine. They often threaten to pay her a visit.

Her tormentors even know when she has taken part in a protest outside the Chinese consulate in Calgary. This summer, while protesting the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, Ms. Lai saw men with telephoto lenses taking pictures of the rally participants from the balconies of neighbouring buildings.

Soon after, the harassment referred to her participation in the demonstration. “Why don’t you go back to Hong Kong and protest the Winter Olympics there?” one said.

Ms. Lai’s friends have taken the matter to the RCMP and the Calgary police. Last year, Ottawa urged anyone being targeted in such a manner to speak to law enforcement.

Martin Seto, a Calgarian with the New Hong Kong Cultural Club, which also supports asylum seekers, said he spoke to the RCMP’s Integrated National Security Enforcement Team, but they told him it’s difficult, if not impossible, to trace harassment online – particularly if it’s coming from another country.

The RCMP did not respond to a request for comment.

Cherie Wong, the executive director of Alliance Canada Hong Kong, an umbrella group for Hong Kong pro-democracy activists in Canada, said they and their supporters are particular targets for intimidation. “Harassments of dissidents in the diaspora never stops,” she said. “The Chinese Communist Party in Beijing has identified these folks as clearly disobeying the interests of the Hong Kong and Chinese governments.”

Ms. Lai said she refuses to give in to the harassers. “They sound like Chinese uncles,” she said, using a term for older men.

Nevertheless, the stress of starting over about 11,000 kilometres from home sometimes weighs heavily with her. She left behind a well-paying job – and parents who as recently as this spring received a visit from Hong Kong police officers looking for her.

On rare occasions, the enormity of what she has taken on is too much to bear.

“Last winter – it was the first winter in Calgary. I was so cold after I took a shower. And I couldn’t stop crying,” Ms. Lai recalled.

If she had not chosen this life, she could still be enjoying warm weather in Hong Kong, taking afternoon tea or shopping.

But she remains committed to her path and motivated by two goals: supporting other exiles from China and telling the story of what the Chinese Communist Party has done to her people. “When you find something wrong, it is a citizen’s responsibility to tell the government they are wrong.”

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/politics/article-harassment-of-hong-kong-activists-never-stops-even-for-those-now/?utm_medium=Referrer:+Social+Network+/+Media&utm_campaign=Shared+Web+Article+Links

Britain’s newest immigrant group is unlike any that came before

Of interest (Canada is focussing on younger Hong Kongese):

On a sunny afternoon hundreds of Hong Kongers, many so new to Britain that they have not lost the habit of outdoor mask-wearing, have gathered in Beddington Park in the south London borough of Sutton. Trish Fivey, the mayor, gives a short speech welcoming them. Sutton is already multicultural, she says. She looks forward to another group joining the mix.

It is a fine sentiment. But the Hong Kongers are quite different from other immigrants, including other ethnic Chinese. Many have a distinct legal status and are socially atypical. They live in specific places, which they chose in a novel way. They have created distinctive self-help groups. In just a few months, they have begun to rewrite Britain’s immigrant story.

Cantonese speakers have settled in Britain for decades, though not in great numbers. Some early migrants ran Chinese restaurants, which were ubiquitous enough by 1945 to let George Orwell describe them as standard destinations for natives seeking good cheap meals. But the latest rush began recently. In June 2020 Beijing passed a national-security law that criminalised much political activity in Hong Kong. Seven months later the British government created a new visa that enabled many Hong Kongers to settle. By the end of June this year 65,000 people had applied.

Source: Britain’s newest immigrant group is unlike any that came before

Fleeing Hongkongers boost overseas property markets from UK to Canada

Of note from the citizenship-by-investment industry:

Hongkongers moving abroad have bought at least US$100 million worth of property since 2019, a year marked by unprecedented social unrest, according to a Hong Kong-based law firm.

The Harvey Law Group (HLG) found that Hongkongers’ preferred destinations are the US, UK, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. Their interest in finding a residency overseas or a scheme that paves the way to citizenship through investment has increased fourfold in the last two years.

“From our clients worldwide, since 2019, they have bought about US$1 billion worth of properties under various residency or citizenship-by-investment programmes, and Hong Kong contributed about 10 per cent of that,” said Jean-Francois Harvey, global managing partner and founder of the firm. Since 1992, HLG, which has 18 offices worldwide, has served about 12,000 clients and families who sought mobility via residency or citizenship schemes.

“This demand had been sustained. Pre-1997 we had a small wave of Hongkongers, but in 2019 we had a perfect storm, and easily there was fourfold growth,” he said. Each time the city faced a political crisis, there was a marked uptick in inquiries.

The type of person seeking a second passport or a residency abroad has shifted over the years too.

“The profile has changed a lot. Before 2019, a typical Hong Kong client would be in their 50s with kids aged in their late teens. Now, we’re looking at young 40s with kids between two and seven years old,” Harvey said.

“Before 2019, Hong Kong was never a passport market, because the Hong Kong passport is quite convenient to travel with, but lately we’ve seen a very big increase in the number of people asking for a new passport and to acquire new citizenship because they want security.”

The alternative passport option became more popular still after Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law seen by many as an erosion of Hong Kong’s autonomy and the freedoms afforded its citizens under the Sino-British treaty.

The various residency and citizenship schemes on offer have boosted the housing markets of destination countries, as buying property is typically one of the ways to gain permission to stay in a country.

“There are many benefits to the host country, including to the property market. In fact, since the outbreak of the pandemic, many more countries have been designing and setting up residence and citizenship-by-investment programmes to attract affluent investors and talent,” said Denise Ng, head of North Asia at Henley & Partners.

For Hongkongers, the top residency programmes are those offered by Thailand, the UK and Canada, while for citizenship, the preferred schemes are in Malta, Grenada and Dominica, according to the immigration consultancy.

“For international investors, wealthy families and entrepreneurs based in Hong Kong, citizenship diversification through investment migration will continue to be a robust solution to navigating ever changing circumstances. [It is] a win–win for sovereign states and investors alike.”

It is estimated that about 50,000 Hongkongers chose to leave the city in 2020, though this year the number is likely to decline by 4.6 per cent, according to UK-based Astons, which helps clients buy real estate and obtain residency and citizenship via investment.

“For many Hongkongers, emigration is being considered with a long-term view and so the real estate component of residency or citizenship through investment can be particularly preferable,” said Arthur Sarkisian, managing director at Astons.

“It provides a tangible asset that can bring a further return on their investment in addition to residency or citizenship. Or, in the case of the residential path, it can provide them with the firm foundation of a home when starting their new life.”

Source: Fleeing Hongkongers boost overseas property markets from UK to Canada

Rise in expat voting expected to continue, creating new political footholds, say experts

Of note. One of the reasons that one of the former Chief Electoral Officer did not oppose expatriate voting was his expectation that most will not bother to vote which the 2019 election confirmed although that will likely increase slowly. And yes, riding breakdowns would be useful, but it is interesting to note the Conservative focus on Canadian expatriates in Hong Kong rather than the much larger living in the USA:

Expat voting tripled between the last two Canadian federal elections, and sources who recently spoke with The Hill Times say they expect numbers of those who cast ballots from abroad to continue to trend upwards, opening new opportunities for political parties.

But while a conservative group launched in January is working to boost registration of international electors, there’s no sign of a liberal equivalent.

“I think we’re the only Canadian kind of political-oriented expat group that’s trying to help Canadians get registered [to vote] abroad,” said Brett Stephenson, vice-chair and policy chair of Canadian Conservatives Abroad(CCA), which officially launched in January of this year with an aim, in part, to encourage registration of international voters, in a recent phone interview with The Hill Times from Hong Kong.

Involved in the group are a number of notable names: former Conservative foreign affairs minister John Baird, who now works for a number of international firms in Toronto; Nigel Wright, a former chief of staff to then-prime minister Stephen Harper who’s working for Onex in London, U.K.; Herman Cheung, a former manager of new media and marketing in the Harper PMO who now works for Philip Morris International in Hong Kong; Barrett Bingley, a former adviser to then-foreign affairs minister David Emerson who’s now working for The Economist Group in Hong Kong; Patrick Muttart, a former deputy chief of staff to PM Harper who’s now working for Philip Morris International in London, U.K.; Jamie Tronnes, a former Conservative staffer on the Hill who’s now working as a consultant in Oakland, Calif.; Georganne Burke, an experienced Conservative campaigner and organizer who’s based in Ottawa; and Ian Vaculik, who briefly worked as an adviser in the Harper PMO and now works for KBR Inc. in London, U.K. Mr. Stephenson is also a former Conservative staffer, including to Lisa Raitt during her time as natural resources minister. 

“I don’t think the … small ‘L’ liberals have come together to form an organization. I thought they would after we had formed in January, but there still hasn’t been any effort as far as I can see,” said Mr. Stephenson. 

Similar efforts have been underway by political parties in the U.S., the U.K., and Australia for decades, said Mr. Stephenson—for example, Democrats Abroad or Republicans Overseas—but similar outreach to Canadian expats has long been a “missing component.”

“We’re about 40 years behind our fellow English-speaking countries when it comes to having some sort of international space to engage with expats abroad,” he said. 

Citizens who had resided outside of Canada were barred from voting if they’d lived outside the country for more than five years in 1993, though it was seen as loosely enforced until 2011. In that year’s election, two Canadians who’d been outside the country for more than five years—Gillian Frank and Jamie Duong—had their ballots rejected, a decision they took to court, leading to a January 2019 Supreme Court decision that ruled expats have the right to vote in federal elections no matter how long they’ve lived outside the country. That decision came on the heels of a Trudeau Liberal bill, the Elections Modernization Act, which received royal assent in December 2018 and, among other things, amended the Canada Elections Act to scrap the requirement that only Canadians living outside the country for less than five consecutive years, and who intended to return in the future, could vote.

Subsequently, expat voting surged. In 2015, 15,603 expats were registered with Elections Canada as of that year’s election, with 10,707 valid ballots cast. In 2019, 55,512 Canadians were on the international register of electors come the October election, of which 32,720 cast valid ballots, an increase of nearly 206 per cent from the election prior. 

Even with the increase, that’s still a small fraction of the total number of Canadians living abroad. The Canadian Expat Association estimates some 2.8 million Canadians live outside the country (the number of eligible voters among that count though is unknown); registration with Global Affairs Canada is entirely voluntary, and only 352,245 Canadians are currently registered.

Graph courtesy of Infogram.

There are early signs that the number of expats registering to vote continues to rise.

On Sept. 13, 2019, two days after the writs were issued and roughly one month out from voting day (Oct. 21) in the last election, the Huffington Post reported that, at that point, 19,784 people were on the international register of electors. That number rose 180.6 per cent to 55,512 by election day. 

As of July 25, there were 29,632 Canadians on Elections Canada’s international register of electors—roughly 10,000 more than were on the list one month out from the last election. (Elections Canada does a verification process after each federal election, asking those registered to confirm their continued registration and mailing address, and removes the names of those who don’t respond or have returned to Canada.)

Though it’s still not official that a federal election will happen soon, expectation seems widespread that an election call is imminent, with the vote seen as likely to be held this fall, possibly in September.

“The opportunity is there for expats to have an impact,” said Mr. Stephenson, adding he expects the number of ballots cast by expat voters in the next election to be on par with 2019 levels or to potentially go up. “I don’t think it will dip down.”

John Delacourt, a former Liberal staffer and now a vice-president with Hill and Knowlton Strategies, said the numbers “certainly suggest” expat voting is on the rise.

“If that is indeed the case … it would be viewed as an opportunity, and as an opportunity for outreach, and virtually every party, I think, is interested in growth to connect with members, whether they be beyond our borders” or in Canada, he said. 

Semra Sevi, a PhD candidate with the University of Montreal’s department of political science who has explored the subject of expat voting (her master’s thesis looked at the impact of such voters in Canada), said the fact that expat voting appears to be on the rise is “not very surprising,” given increased attention on the matter, and she expects it “will continue to climb,” as political groups increasingly turn their sights to such voters and awareness builds. 

Mr. Delacourt said he doesn’t know of a Liberal-equivalent group to the CCA, adding the Conservative effort is “a little ironic” given the party’s past position supporting previous expat voting limits.

The Hill Times asked the federal Liberal Party directly about the existence of any such groups, and none were noted in response, though senior director of communications Braeden Caley did highlight that the party “works both with volunteers and organizers on a series of initiatives to help encourage Canadians abroad to participate in our democracy and elections,” noting “particularly strong support from Canadian students who have been living abroad in recent years.” 

Mr. Stephenson and Mr. Bingley previously formed a Canadian Conservatives in Hong Kong group in 2019, on the heels of the Supreme Court’s decision, similarly aimed at encouraging expats to register to vote. Through one registration drive event held a few days before writs dropped in 2019, attended by Mr. Baird, he said the group helped get between 150 to 200 expats registered. (The total number registered overall as a result of the group’s efforts is unknown, as expats have to register themselves.)

“That’s the kind of thing we’re hoping to replicate more on a global level” now, he said, with a particular focus currently on the Asia-Pacific region (Hong Kong, Singapore, and Australia in particular), the European Union (France and Germany in particular), Israel, the U.K., and the U.S., with the latter two being “likely where most Canadian expats live.” 

A lot of the group’s work, said Mr. Stephenson, is about “information sharing” and helping expats understand the process of registering, a process that involves “a lot of clicking” and is “not very simplified.” For example, a question that often comes up among expats, he said, is how voting in Canada could impact their taxes (zero impact, he said, citing Canadian tax experts).

Along with expat registration, Mr. Stephenson said the CCA is working to build a conservative network across the globe and has plans to start advertising on social media “soon.” The group also has a third function: providing informal policy advice and feedback to the Conservative Party and caucus back home (as well as provincial conservative parties, “as it comes”—for example, they recently had an open forum discussion with Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, he said). 

“Tapping into that network of experience and breadth of knowledge across sectors and countries can help to really inform policy issues back into Canada,” he said. “Canada sometimes gets a little bit isolated in international conversations … and sometimes we don’t read the newspapers in other countries about what’s going on, so we wanted to be able to have that policy feedback loop to improve the discussion back in Parliament a bit more.” 

To be on the international register of electors, you need to be a Canadian citizen, at least 18 years old on polling day, and have lived in the country at some point in your life. Elections Canada requires a copy of one piece of ID, either from a Canadian passport, birth certificate, or citizenship card/certificate. Expats also need to provide the last address they lived at in Canada (it can’t be a PO box). That address is used to determine the federal riding in which their vote will be counted. Registration can happen at any time, according to Elections Canada, but must happen before 6 p.m. on the Tuesday before election day (which is always a Monday) to have their vote counted in that election.

Elections Canada begins the process of mailing out special ballot kits to those on the register “immediately after the drop of writs” and it typically takes two to three days to mail all of them out, said spokesperson Matthew McKenna. 

“This time around, we have done what we can to prepare kits in advance so we are ready to go as soon as possible,” he said. 

How long it takes to reach international voters varies by country, he said, noting the agency uses DHL, a private courier service, for “many destinations.” Completed kits have to be received at Elections Canada’s Ottawa distribution centre by no later than 6 p.m. on election day.

Since 2015, Elections Canada has run a “paid advertising component” to reach out to international electors online; prior to then, it did “some smaller-scale targeted advertising” along with “non-paid outreach and organic communication,” explained Mr. McKenna. The agency also works with Global Affairs Canada to share information with Canadians living abroad about how to register and vote, and has a dedicated section on its website.

Impact of expat voters hard to gauge, says Sevi

In the 2019 federal election, 18.4 million Canadians cast valid ballots. International voters accounted for a small fraction of that, rounded to just 0.2 per cent. 

But Mr. Stephenson said he thinks there’s still potential for expats to make an impact. In his understanding, “many of the Hong Kong Canadians,” for example, are from B.C.’s Lower Mainland, the Greater Toronto Area, and Calgary and Edmonton. If “even just 10 or 20 per cent” of Canadians in Hong Kong vote, he suggested “it could tip the scales in a lot of close election races in the GTA and Lower Mainland.” Both areas are seat-rich and seen as target regions by Canada’s major political parties. 

Gauging the impact expat voters have had in federal elections is hard to do, said Ms. Sevi. The riding-by-riding vote breakdown currently provided by Elections Canada lumps together all votes by special ballot as one category; that includes international electors, but also captures votes cast by prisoners, members of the military, and people voting domestically by mail-in ballot. (Elections Canada is anticipating mail-in ballot use to rise considerably in the next federal election as a result of COVID-19.) 

“It’s hard to disentangle the patterns to say that you know expat votes would make a difference in a specific constituency historically,” said Ms. Sevi. The Conservative Party has in recent elections gotten more votes by special ballot than any other party, she said, but that’s special ballots as a combined group. A Maclean’s piece penned by Ms. Sevi and Peter H. Russell in 2015, notes that in 2008 and 2011, Ontario saw the highest share of expat voters, followed by Quebec, then B.C., then Alberta, with expat votes spread “increasingly in urban ridings.”

However, separate research she’s done into voting by Turkish expats (in Turkey’s elections)—information on which is “disentangled” as a separate category—indicates that while turnout is lower than among domestic voters in Turkey, expats “tend to vote along similar lines as domestic voters.”

Ms. Sevi said she hopes Elections Canada provides a riding-by-riding breakdown of the types of special ballot votes in the future. 

Source: Rise in expat voting expected to continue, creating new political footholds, say experts

For many young Hong Kong graduates, Canada’s new routes to immigration have turned into a dead end

The impact of the five-year limit, designed to encourage younger immigrants:

When the Canadian government invited Hong Kongers to apply for a work permit that Ottawa designed solely for people from the territory, plumbing engineer Kay Pang applied as soon as he could.

The open work permit allows Pang to travel anywhere in Canada to look for a job, but he recently learned that the document — contrary to what the government had promised in February — won’t expedite permanent residency for everybody from Hong Kong. In truth, people who graduated in 2016 or earlier are not eligible.

His realization comes as authorities in Hong Kong, where freedoms have been increasingly restricted since last year, prepare to enforce a law that, according to the Hong Kong Bar Association, could allow them to block people from entering or leaving the territory as of Aug. 1.

However, the bar association’s interpretation of the new law is disputed by the city’s security bureau which says the change is aimed at stopping asylum seekers from coming to Hong Kong and is allowed under a global aviation agreement.

“It’s really sad for me,” said Pang, who graduated from City University of Hong Kong in 2016, about the new challenges on his road to permanent residency. He had planned to come to Vancouver next January to look for career opportunities in robotics engineering.

New paths to permanent residency

Hong Kongers were allowed to apply for the open work permit from February. The permit allows them to spend up to three years in Canada to gain enough work experience here in order to apply for permanent residency.

At the initial announcements in November and February, no details were given about how recently potential applicants for permanent residency would need to have graduated.

On June 8, Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino unveiled more details. There are two new paths to permanent residency exclusively for Hong Kong residents who recently graduated from a Canadian post-secondary institution (“Stream A”), or recently graduated from a Canadian or foreign institution who are working in Canada (“Stream B”).

Applicants via Stream B must hold a degree, diploma or graduate credential obtained in the past five years, on top of at least one year of full-time work experience or 1,560 hours of part-time work in Canada in the past three years.

Many graduates eyeing immigration to Canada with an open work permit prefer Stream B to Stream A, because they don’t want to spend money going back to school.

But if their degree was awarded in 2016 or before, they face not being able to meet the requirements for permanent residency via that stream.

‘Why would you just shut the door?’

Pang, among more than 28,000 people graduating from Hong Kong post-secondary institutions in 2016, applied for an open work permit in March. But even if he landed in B.C. and got a job now, it wouldn’t leave him enough time to get the necessary one year of full-time work experience before his degree becomes ineligible.

Hong Kong software developer Edward Wong is in a similar situation. He received an open work permit in May and booked a flight ticket to Toronto, with plans to settle there, in September.

But Wong, who graduated from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology in 2016, also faces being ineligible for permanent residency.

He said he doesn’t understand why Immigration Canada has created this additional hurdle.

Source: For many young Hong Kong graduates, Canada’s new routes to immigration have turned into a dead end

Contrasting articles: New paths to permanent residency for Hong Kong students and workers not enough: advocates, Ottawa warned to not assume Hong Kongers are innocent of charges

Starting with the advocates:

UBC law student Davin Wong has many friends who are excited about two new paths to permanent residency for Hong Kong students and workers with temporary resident status in Canada.

Ottawa announced the new paths last week, saying it is “deeply concerned” by China’s imposing of a national security law and the “deteriorating” human rights situation in Hong Kong.

Source: New paths to permanent residency for Hong Kong students and workers not enough: advocates

And a note of caution from IRCC officials:

Canadian immigration officials warned the federal government in an internal memo last year against assuming protest-related charges faced by Hong Kongers seeking entry to Canada are bogus accusations fabricated by the city’s Beijing-backed authorities.

This internal caution, which was provided to The Globe and Mail, is different from the Canadian government’s public messaging on the crackdown on the former British colony. Ottawa routinely says it stands “shoulder to shoulder with the people of Hong Kong.” The consensus among human rights groups is that many of the arrests and charges laid against Hong Kong protesters have been unjustified.

A report from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada’s Hong Kong office advises Ottawa not to consider Hong Kongers innocent if they apply for visas or asylum but have protest-related charges. “It cannot be assumed that charges are politicized or trumped up by authorities; there have been shocking images of violent attacks during confrontations,” the report says.

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-morning-update-ottawa-warned-to-not-assume-hong-kongers-are-innocent/

Federal government opening immigration options for Hong Kongers to come to Canada

Good:

The federal government is opening up new immigration options for Hong Kongers to make Canada their home as Beijing continues its unprecedented crackdown on the former British colony.

Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino said two new immigration streams will now begin taking applications from Hong Kongers working in Canada or recent university graduates from Hong Kong now living in Canada. They will be offered a quicker and more efficient pathway to permanent residence.

“At this difficult moment, Canada continues to stand shoulder to shoulder with the people of Hong Kong. We are deeply concerned about China’s imposition of the National Security Law, and more broadly the deteriorating human rights situation in Hong Kong,” the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship department said in a statement.

This is on top of a program announced in February targeted at people living in Hong Kong who had graduated from a Canadian or foreign university. It offers them a three-year open work permit that would help pave the way for applying for permanent residency.

The work permit program opened in February and has so far attracted 3,481 applications, the department said on Monday.

An exodus from Hong Kong has been expected since the Chinese government imposed the national security law on Hong Kong in June, 2020, saying it was to target secession, subversion and terrorism. But it includes vaguely defined offences that critics say effectively criminalize dissent and opposition to the Chinese Communist Party’s rule.

“With young Hong Kongers casting their eyes abroad, we want them to choose Canada,” Mr. Mendicino said in a statement.

“Skilled Hong Kongers will have a unique opportunity to both develop their careers and help accelerate our recovery. This landmark initiative will strengthen our economy and deepen the strong ties between Canada and the people of Hong Kong.”

Canada and Western allies have called China’s clampdown a violation of the international treaty it signed pledging to allow local autonomy and civil rights to continue for 50 years after the 1997 handover.

Records show Hong Kongers have already moved billions of dollars to Canada. Last year, capital flows out of Hong Kong banks and into Canada reached the highest level on record, with about $43.6-billion in electronic funds transfers recorded by FINTRAC, Canada’s anti-money-laundering agency.

A crackdown on civil rights in Hong Kong that accelerated in 2020 amid the global pandemic has steadily eroded the territory’s political and social freedoms that were unique in China, a legacy of the territory’s years under British control. Earlier this year, Chinese lawmakers approved changes to Hong Kong’s electoral system, further reducing democratic representation in the city’s institutions and introducing a mechanism to vet and screen politicians for loyalty to Beijing.

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/politics/article-federal-government-opening-immigration-options-for-hong-kongers-to/

Hong Kongers are jumping at the chance to immigrate to Canada

Likely to increase further:

A Canadian government program to help Hong Kongers immigrate to this country in the wake of Beijing’s crackdown on the former British colony has received more than 5,700 applications in its first three months, roughly triple the number that usually apply in a full year.

The federal initiative to help Hong Kongers study and work in Canada was opened for applicants in February. It included a three-year open work permit for recent Hong Kong graduates or those with a history of work experience in areas Canada might value, as well as a new pathway to permanent-resident status for those who end up coming here.

Since then, there have been more than 5,640 applications for work permits and 86 applications to extend existing work permits, Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino’s office announced Thursday.

The applications represent a significant jump from the interest shown in recent years from Hong Kong through other programs. Alexander Cohen, press secretary to Mr. Mendicino, said Canada typically received about 1,500 to 2,000 work-permit applications from Hong Kongers annually in recent years through other comparable immigration programs.

An exodus from Hong Kong has been expected since the Chinese government imposed a national security law on Hong Kong in June, 2020, ostensibly to target secession, subversion and terrorism, but with vaguely defined offences that critics say effectively criminalize dissent and opposition to the Chinese Communist Party’s rule.

Canada and Western allies have criticized China’s clampdown as a violation of the international treaty it signed in which Beijing had pledged to allow local autonomy and civil rights to continue for 50 years after the 1997 handover.

“Canada shares the grave concerns of the international community over China’s national security legislation and strongly supports the right to peaceful protest, freedom of expression and freedom of assembly. At this difficult moment, we stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the people of Hong Kong,” Mr. Cohen said in a statement.

Vancouver-based immigration lawyer Richard Kurland said the applications represent a big uptake from Hong Kong.

“That’s an outstanding number of work permits. Hong Kongers are beginning to vote with their feet,” he said.

He expects a steady stream of out-migration from the Asian financial hub in the years ahead.

Records show Hong Kongers have already moved billions of dollars to Canada. Last year, capital flows out of Hong Kong banks and into Canada reached the highest level on record, with about $43.6-billion in electronic funds transfers recorded by FINTRAC, Canada’s anti-money laundering agency.

The United Kingdom has announced a pathway to British citizenship for Hong Kongers who were born before the 1997 handover and qualify for British national (overseas) status. Britain is offering them the right to live, study and work in the country for five years and eventually apply for citizenship. As many as 2.6 million Hong Kongers are eligible and British authorities have estimated as many as 200,000 will embark on this path to citizenship.

A crackdown on civil rights in Hong Kong that accelerated in 2020 amid the global pandemic has steadily eroded the territory’s political and social freedoms that were unique in China, a legacy of the territory’s years under British control. Earlier this year, Chinese lawmakers approved changes to Hong Kong’s electoral system, further reducing democratic representation in the city’s institutions and introducing a mechanism to vet and screen politicians’ loyalty to Beijing.

Cherie Wong, executive director of Alliance Canada Hong Kong, said the work-permit initiative has helped resettle many Hong Kongers but she also wants Canada to offer a dedicated path for political refugees from the former British territory.

She said only a select group will qualify for the Canadian work-permit program but there is a far bigger share of the population that wants to leave Hong Kong. Ms. Wong cited a September, 2020, poll by the Chinese University of Hong Kong’s Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies that found more than 43 per cent of Hong Kongers polled said they would be inclined to emigrate if given the opportunity.

Ms. Wong noted the Hong Kong government, under direction from Beijing, has passed new regulations coming into force Aug. 1 that give authorities the right to bar people from leaving the city. This, she warned, could lead to a humanitarian crisis.

“Authorities will have the ability to issue an exit ban on anyone and that’s a great opportunity for them to close the border,” she said.

“Hong Kong is in the second year of this humanitarian crisis. Canada has done little to support Hong Kongers fleeing persecution; rather we have only offered a work-permit program targeted at postsecondary graduates. It is not humanitarian relief, we need urgent actions prior to August.”

The Canadian government has resisted creating a special refugee stream for Hong Kong, saying applicants can use existing channels.

At last count, Canada has granted asylum to 18 Hong Kong prodemocracy activists, according to the New Hong Kong Cultural Club, a group of Canadian supporters of democracy in Hong Kong that has branches in Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver. These refugees are all people who travelled to Canada before COVID-19 pandemic travel restrictions hit.

Ms. Wong said many Hong Kongers who would like to seek refuge from the crackdown in Hong Kong are prevented by COVID-19 travel restrictions from journeying here to apply for asylum.

Source: Hong Kongers are jumping at the chance to immigrate to Canada

For Hong Kongers, Canada is the beaten path out of China’s iron grip

While the number of returnees will be hard to determine, any new wave of Hong Kong immigrants will be captured by regular IRCC and related StatsCan data (1,545 in 2019, the last full year before COVID-19):

A second generation of Hong Kongers is heading to Vancouver and other Canadian cities for refuge from political uncertainty, but unlike their parents in the 1980s and 1990s, this time the move seems for good.

Cities such as Vancouver and Toronto are a magnet for those looking to escape as China tightens its grip on the territory of 7.5 million people. Some 300,000 already have Canadian citizenship after many families initially moved there before Hong Kong’s return from British to Chinese rule in 1997.

Source: For Hong Kongers, Canada is the beaten path out of China’s iron grip