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

ICYMI: Hong Kong to teach elementary students about subversion and foreign interference

Yet another sign of the Chinese regime’s crackdown on Hong Kong:

Hong Kong has unveiled controversial guidelines for schools that include teaching students as young as six about colluding with foreign forces and subversion, as part of a new national security curriculum.

Beijing imposed a security law on Hong Kong in June 2020 in response to months of often violent anti-government and anti-China protests in 2019 that put the global financial hub more firmly on an authoritarian path.

The Education Bureau’s guidelines, released late on Thursday, show that Beijing’s plans for the semi-autonomous Hong Kong go beyond quashing dissent, and aim for a societal overhaul to bring its most restive city more in line with the Communist Party-ruled mainland.

Source: Hong Kong to teach elementary students about subversion and foreign interference

Canada urged to create dedicated asylum pathway for Hong Kongers fleeing political persecution

Expect pressure to grow. As Waldman notes, better to do so discretely:

Canada must create a dedicated asylum pathway for Hong Kongers fleeing Beijing’s clampdown on political opposition in the former British territory, Canadian MPs were told Monday.

“This is not a conventional humanitarian crisis, so conventional solutions are not effective for those who need our help,” Cherie Wong, executive director of Alliance Canada Hong Kong, an umbrella group that supported the Asian city’s pro-democracy movement, told the House of Commons immigration committee.

She told MPs that an immigration program unveiled last November to bring young Hong Kongers to Canada is only useful for upper-middle-class graduates and “fails to consider the realities of everyday people of Hong Kong.”

Reverend Brian Wong, a Canadian from Hong Kong with the Mustard Seeds Hong Kong Concern Group, concurred in his comments to MPs, saying dissidents come from many backgrounds. “Canada needs to come up with a inclusive policy to accommodate the needs of a broad spectrum of Hong Kong people at the risk of political persecution.”

Alliance Canada Hong Kong’s Ms. Wong described life for many of the Hong Kongers who marched in protests for a year before the national security law was enacted, noting they were targeted by “systematic surveillance operations, including having plainclothes officers stationed at the airports, loitering inside international terminals” and boarding areas.

“We have friends whose travel documents are confiscated, teammates monitored and followed who are scared for their lives, and fellow activists who are arrested while looking for options to leave. The Hong Kong government is even looking at legislation to impose exit bans and further suppress freedom of movement,” she said.

The Chinese government imposed a sweeping national security law on Hong Kong last June, 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.

More than 100 prominent Hong Kong political figures have already been arrested under this law, which carries penalties up to life imprisonment. Western countries, including Canada, have decried this crackdown as a violation of Beijing’s treaty pledge to maintain civil rights and the rule of law in the former British colony for 50 years after the 1997 handover.

The British government has offered a path to citizenship for many Hong Kongers, but this still leaves many stranded as authorities in Hong Kong arrest journalists, ban access to websites, seize cell phones and computers and fire teachers and union activists.

So far, Canada has accepted at least 15 asylum claimants as political refugees, according to Jane Lee of the New Hong Kong Cultural Club, a group of Canadian supporters of democracy in Hong Kong with branches in Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver that has helped 30 people from the former British colony to seek safe haven in Canada.

All these claimants, however, arrived before COVID-19 travel restrictions. The big problem facing persecuted Hong Kongers today is they cannot board a plane to reach countries such as Canada to claim asylum.

Toronto immigration lawyer Lorne Waldman said he’s been approached by Hong Kongers who want to leave but cannot because of flight restrictions. ”There definitely are people who need to get out and are at serious risk,” he said.

Advocates urged Canada to help funnel travel documents via non-governmental organizations to persecuted Hong Kongers in the Asian city, much like Ottawa once helped persecuted gay Iranians and Chechens reach Canada.

If Canada plans such action, Ottawa “shouldn’t and won’t make a big fanfare about this,” Mr. Waldman said.

NDP immigration critic Jenny Kwan suggested the federal Department of Immigration issue “minister’s permits” that would allow Hong Kongers to leave for Canada while applications are being processed.

Canada-Hong Kong ties run deep. There are several hundred thousand Canadians of Hong Kong origin living in Canada and 300,000 Canadian citizens living in Hong Kong now. More than 1,970 Canadians were deployed to defend Hong Kong from the Japanese in the Second World War and 554 lost their lives as a result.

Rev. Dominic Tse, senior pastor at North York Christian Community Church, told MPs that many Hong Kongers he knows would rather migrate to Canada than to Britain, based on existing ties and Canada’s reputation. He urged Canada to liberally grant work permits to Hong Kongers, giving them a chance to establish residency here. “Many Hong Kong people have either relatives or friends or classmates in Canada, and if they have a choice they actually would rather go to Canada than the U.K.”

Last November, Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino announced 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 Hong Kongers who end up coming here.

Source: Canada urged to create dedicated asylum pathway for Hong Kongers fleeing political persecution

Douglas Todd: China drops hammer on Hong Kong residents holding Canadian passports

Given that, according to an Asia Pacific Foundation poll that a majority of Canadian citizens resident in Hong Kong had only lived in Canada for 4 to 5 years (“Canadians of convenience” to use the previous government’s phrase), will be interesting to see how many return and when:

The leaders of Hong Kong are pressuring about 350,000 residents who hold Canadian passports to make an ultimate decision about their citizenship.

Under the thumb of Mainland China — which does not allow dual citizenship — the territorial government is squeezing people who have been living and working for decades in the financial hub while holding passports from other nations, most commonly Canada.

Ivison: 300,000 dual citizens in Hong Kong must choose between Canada and China after policy change

To watch the choices that these Canadian citizens make:

Ottawa is growing increasingly concerned about the rights of 300,000 Canadian citizens in Hong Kong, after the territory’s government declared that dual citizens must choose the nationality they wish to maintain.

“Canada is aware of the Hong Kong government’s decision to require dual nationals to declare the nationality they wish to legally maintain while in Hong Kong,” said spokesperson John Babcock. “At this moment, we understand that this policy predominantly affects dual nationals serving prison sentences in Hong Kong. Canada has expressed its concern to the Hong Kong government about the possible loss of consular access that this change implies.”

China doesn’t recognize dual nationals under its Nationality Law and Hong Kong residents of Chinese descent are regarded as Chinese citizens. The Hong Kong government has stated that residents, around 300,000 of whom hold Canadian passports, are not entitled to consular protection unless they make a declaration of change of nationality. If that process is successful, they are no longer regarded as Chinese citizens – but it may affect their right of abode in Hong Kong, which allows people to live and work in the territory without restrictions. Foreign nationals can only acquire right of abode after a seven years residency requirement, which gives them the right to vote but not hold a territorial passport or stand for office.

Source: 300,000 dual citizens in Hong Kong must choose between Canada and China after policy change

Pro-establishment figure calls for curbs on Hongkongers obtaining dual citizenship

Further crackdown if reflects Beijing’s view and implemented:

Hong Kong’s former security chief has called on Beijing to effectively forbid obtaining dual nationality by revoking the right to live and vote in the city for any resident who acquired foreign citizenship after a “specified cut-off date”.

Pro-establishment lawmaker Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee’s proposal came as the city government hit back at the foreign ministers of the United States, Canada, Britain and Australia, who had jointly voiced serious concerns over last week’s mass arrest of 55 opposition politicians and activists in Hong Kong under the Beijing-imposed national security law.

Even before the arrests, Hong Kong was already bracing for a surge of emigration after London created a new route to citizenship for locals eligible for British National (Overseas) status. The new visa scheme was envisioned as a lifeboat for Hongkongers in the wake of the imposition of the security law, which Britain has deemed a breach of the Sino-British Joint Declaration.

Describing Britain’s offer as “a slap in the face of Chinese authorities”, Ip said it might be time for Beijing to end its special treatment of Hongkongers and enforce its own nationality law in the city.

“This could be done after a specified cut-off date. Thereafter, Hong Kong Chinese who acquire a foreign nationality of their own free will, will be deemed to have lost Chinese nationality, in strict accordance with Article 9 of the Chinese Nationality Law,” Ip, a government adviser on the Executive Council, the city leader’s de facto cabinet, wrote in an opinion piece in the Post on Sunday.

“If that happens, Hong Kong Chinese who acquire a foreign nationality by emigration or other means voluntarily would automatically lose their right to hold concurrently a Hong Kong Special Administrative Region passport. They could also lose the right of abode in Hong Kong and the attendant right to vote in Hong Kong elections.”

Source: Pro-establishment figure calls for curbs on Hongkongers obtaining dual citizenship

Will Canada’s immigration scheme for Hong Kong drain young talent from city?

Likely yes. Economic class immigration is not altruistic:

Canada’s latest immigration scheme for Hong Kong may spark an exodus of talent from the city as heightened local political tensions push educated young people to seek opportunities elsewhere, according to experts.

The forecast on Friday referred to new rules unveiled by Canada a day before to make it easier for Hong Kong’s youth to study and work there, in response to the sweeping national security law imposed by Beijing on the city.

“[The] announcement is set against the backdrop of a number of developments which have been gravely concerning to Canada,” the country’s immigration minister Marco Mendicino said on Thursday, citing the move by Beijing to disqualify four elected legislators in Hong Kong.

Under the new pathway to permanent residency for Hong Kong youth, any resident of the city who has graduated from a recognised university in the past five years can apply to work for up to three years in Canada, and will be offered a way for easier transition to permanent residency.

Canada also plans to accelerate the process for the spouses, partners and children of young Hongkongers to emigrate to the country.

Violations of Hong Kong’s national security law, or of any laws that Canada does not itself have on its books, will be disregarded when the country evaluates requests for asylum, permanent residency or other permits, according to Mendicino.

Source: Will Canada’s immigration scheme for Hong Kong drain young talent from city?

Ottawa announces new Hong Kong immigration options as committee warns Uighurs face ‘genocide’

A reminder that Canadian immigration policy has a large element of self-interest given the priority given to younger, highly-educated potential immigrants rather than political refugees (which it may prefer to be discrete about given likely Chinese government thuggish reactions):

The federal government today announced long-awaited plans to help more people living in Hong Kong come to Canada as the Chinese government cracks down on the pro-democracy movement in the territory.

Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino said Canada is introducing a new measure targeting students and young people in Hong Kong: a work permit designed to speed up the process toward permanent residency.

“This announcement also supports the commitments made by the Government of Canada to maintain the many connections between Canada and Hong Kong in response to the Chinese government’s imposition and implementation of the national security law in Hong Kong on June 30, 2020,” his department said in a statement.

There are about 300,000 Canadians living in Hong Kong, the department said, adding that the new Chinese national security law criminalizes “secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces,” using very broad definitions that undermine rights and freedoms.

Hong Kong was supposed to operate under a “one-country, two-systems” framework after Britain handed its former colony over to Beijing in 1997 under an international agreement. But human rights and pro-democracy advocates say Beijing’s new national security law is undermining freedom in Hong Kong.

Mendicino said the new immigration stream announced today was crafted in response to the Chinese crackdown on some Hong Kongers.

“We find ourselves at a challenging moment. Canada remains deeply concerned about China’s passage of the new national security law. We have unequivocally stated that this legislation and the unilateral powers within it are in direct conflict with China’s international obligations,” Mendicino said.

By targeting young Hong Kongers with post-secondary degrees from Canadian and foreign universities, Mendicino said Canada hopes to bring in “the best and the brightest” individuals fleeing repression.

On Wednesday, Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne said Canada was “deeply disappointed” by China’s latest decision to remove four elected lawmakers from office in Hong Kong.

“This decision further narrows Hong Kong’s autonomy and the space for freedom of expression and public participation in governance in Hong Kong,” the minister said in a media statement. “This action clearly demonstrates a concerning disregard for Hong Kong’s Basic Law and the high degree of autonomy promised for Hong Kong under the ‘one-country, two-systems’ framework.”

Earlier today, members of a House of Commons committee looking into the plight of ethnic Muslim Uighurs in China’s Xinjiang province cited their recent conclusion that the Chinese Communist Party is guilty of perpetrating a genocide against the ethnic minority.

The all-party Commons subcommittee on human rights heard harrowing testimony from survivors of China’s imprisonment of Uighur Muslims. They shared accounts of mass incarceration, rape, forced sterilization of women and mass surveillance.

Critics say China has detained as many as one million Uighurs and members of other Muslim groups in what amount to mass prisons, where they are subjected to “re-education.”

The Chinese government has denied any abuse of human rights in the region and insists that reports claiming that are false.

“The subcommittee is persuaded that the actions of the Chinese Communist Party constitute genocide, as laid out in the Genocide Convention,” said Liberal MP Peter Fonseca, the committee chair. “In particular, the subcommittee would like to thank the Uighur witnesses that provided evidence at great risk to themselves and their families living in Xinjiang.”

New Democrat MP Heather McPherson said the most compelling testimony she heard came from women who “survived the concentration camps and shared their stories of abuse and violence.”

“It has been shown again and again that to wipe out a people, to perpetrate a genocide, one must destroy the women. Acts designed to prevent births constitute genocide,” she said.

Thursday’s developments are sure to anger China, which has warned the Trudeau government not to intervene in Hong Kong and to stop levelling criticism related to the Uighurs.

Canada’s relations with China are at an all-time low because the People’s Republic has imprisoned two Canadian men, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor — an action the Trudeau government has branded as one of coercive or “hostage” diplomacy.

Kovrig and Spavor were rounded up by Chinese authorities in December 2018, nine days after Canada arrested Chinese high-tech scion Meng Wanzhou on a U.S. extradition warrant.

The subcommittee made it clear it was pointing the finger at the Chinese Communist Party specifically.

“This is not about a people. This is not about a country,” said Liberal MP Sameer Zuberi. “What we want are these practices to stop and then we will have nothing to say on the matter of the Uighur people.”

The subcommittee’s report will make its way up to the full Commons committee on foreign affairs and international development before it goes to the government for a response.

The Trudeau government has said repeatedly it won’t back down on public criticism of China’s human rights record.

Source: Ottawa announces new Hong Kong immigration options as committee warns Uighurs face ‘genocide’

Canada urged to offer safe haven to Hongkongers

Needed:

Conservative Party Leader Erin O’Toole is calling on the Canadian government to urgently adopt special measures that provide a safe haven for Hong Kong residents facing persecution under a harsh national security law imposed by China on the former British colony.

Mr. O’Toole said Canada must also be prepared to support the 300,000 Canadians living in Hong Kong. This would include evacuation assistance if it becomes necessary for Canadian citizens to flee the Asian financial hub as Chinese security forces continue their crackdown on civil rights.

Special immigration and refugee measures are also needed to provide a “lifeboat” for non-Canadian Hongkongers who are being harassed by Chinese security forces and Hong Kong police, he said in an interview with The Globe and Mail.

“We have to have special provisions,” Mr. O’Toole said. “There is a need for us to provide a refugee route for pro-democracy activists who are now living in a police state and cannot access the process of satisfying the requirements, when dealing with Canadian consular services, to use Express Entry or any other way they can visit Canada.”

It’s been more than three months since Beijing enacted the Law of the People’s Republic of China on Safeguarding National Security, which criminalizes opposition and dissent in Hong Kong. Western countries including Canada have accused the Chinese government of breaking a treaty with Britain that pledged to leave human and civil rights in Hong Kong untouched for 50 years after the former British colony was handed over to China in 1997.

This new law spells trouble for the multitude of Hongkongers who have opposed Beijing’s efforts to erode rights in the Asian city, including the more than 7,000 charged in connection with past protests or those under surveillance by Hong Kong police.

Canada’s arm’s-length Immigration and Refugee Board recently granted asylum to two Hong Kong activists, as The Globe first reported, but their case was unusual in that they came to Canada in late 2019, and neither face charges back home for taking part in pro-democracy protests. More than 45 other activists who arrived before the coronavirus pandemic have also applied to be accepted as refugees.

Mr. O’Toole’s call for immediate action to help Hongkongers comes days after the House of Commons committee on citizenship and immigration voted unanimously to investigate measures to provide a haven for them.

NDP immigration critic Jenny Kwan, who put forward the motion, said the Trudeau government is doing nothing, and Hongkongers are growing desperate.

“It’s been all talk and no action,” she said. “The Liberals always find the right words to say but they never follow up with action.”

There are several hundred thousand Canadians of Hong Kong origin living in Canada and 300,000 Canadian citizens living there now.

Mr. O’Toole said action is needed especially after China’s ambassador to Canada, Cong Peiwu, recently warned Ottawa against granting asylum to pro-democracy dissidents from Hong Kong. Mr. Cong said last week that such action could jeopardize the “health and safety” of 300,000 Canadians living there.

“I have actually met a few people in Canada who cannot return to Hong Kong because they fear for their lives, and knowing what we know about the situation there, I think we have to offer them safe haven,” Mr. O’Toole said.

One problem facing Hongkongers trying to flee now is pandemic travel restrictions that prevent them from boarding an aircraft bound for Canada. Before COVID-19, they could travel to Canada as a tourist and ask for asylum upon arrival – but not any more. They are fearful of declaring their intention to seek asylum while in Hong Kong, where they could be monitored, or are being watched by police, or already face charges for pro-democracy demonstrations.

Another option is for them to apply as economic immigrants through Ottawa’s Express Entry program, but that is a difficult route. Express Entry is for high-talent immigrants and it also requires a certificate from Hong Kong’s police, who are under the thumb of Beijing’s Ministry of Security.

The NDP’s Ms. Kwan hopes Ottawa could set up a system similar to that established by successive governments to help persecuted gay Iranians and Chechens reach Canada. Such a process would allow designate non-governmental organizations to play a role in helping arrange documents for Hongkongers’ passage out of the Asian city, perhaps via a third country.

She also recommends that Ottawa loosen family reunification rules so that a greater number of family relations in Canada could easily sponsor arrivals from Hong Kong. It’s harder for Canadians to sponsor relatives to immigrate to Canada if they are not a spouse, partner or children.

Canadian supporters of Hong Kong dissidents say the problem with using programs such as Express Entry is that applicants from Hong Kong do not generate sufficient points to merit acceptance.

Robert Falconer, a research associate at the University of Calgary School of Public Policy and an external adviser to Alliance Canada Hong Kong, said there could be a solution. If Canada is concerned about China seeing it grant asylum to many dissidents from Hong Kong, and would prefer to bring them in as economic migrants, he said, perhaps there could be a special code that applicants can add to their Express Entry applications. The code would artificially raise the point total so they can be accepted.

Mr. Falconer said groups such as Alliance Canada Hong Kong could be empowered to distribute these codes to dissidents in Hong Kong.

“For all appearance, they would come in as economic-stream immigrants,” he said.

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/politics/article-canada-urged-to-offer-safe-haven-to-hongkongers/

Canada begins accepting Hong Kong pro-democracy activists as refugees

Welcome and likely the start of a future wave:

Canada has begun accepting Hong Kong pro-democracy activists as refugees, a sign that this country is opening its doors to those fleeing Beijing’s crackdown on civil rights in the former British colony.

In a Sept. 1 letter, the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada notified a married couple from Hong Kong, both in their early 30s, that the refugee protection division has determined they are “Convention refugees” and their claims for asylum have been accepted.

Under Canadian law, a “Convention refugee” refers to the United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and is defined as someone who cannot return to their home “due to a well-founded fear of persecution based on race, religion, political opinion” or other factors.

The Globe And Mail spoke to the Hong Kong couple, who originally arrived in Canada last December, but is withholding reporting certain details of their cases because they fear retribution against themselves or families back in Hong Kong by agents of the Chinese Communist Party. The Globe is also granting them confidentiality for the same reason.

The Hong Kong man, 33, who has been accepted as a refugee, said he was a very active protester in the pro-democracy movement in the Asian city, including with a well-known political party that put pressure on the local government to implement universal suffrage. He and his wife, 30, also took to street protests in 2019 amid mass demonstrations that followed efforts by Hong Kong’s leadership to enact legislation that would allow extradition to mainland China.

The man said he was on the front lines of demonstrations in 2019 and ran a warehouse to produce defensive equipment for protesters. He said he was at one point detained by Chinese authorities – they were not wearing uniforms – and Hong Kong police followed him and searched his home, but he was never charged.

He said near the end of his time in Hong Kong, fearful for his safety, he ended up hiding in a cave under a building.

Now, with asylum in Canada, he said: “It feels now like I no longer need to hide, and I am finally somewhere I can live safely.”

He said he is very thankful for Canada’s decision, a country he said shares common values with Hong Kongers.

Immigration lawyer Richard Kurland, who is not representing them, said he believes these two Hong Kongers are among the first pro-democracy activists to be granted asylum. He said he believes a few others may have already obtained refugee status as well.

“These are the first of a small number,” Mr. Kurland, based in Vancouver, said. “This is like the starter’s gun.”

He said accepting refugees from Hong Kong, however, is an indictment of the Asian city’s justice system, which still retains the legacy of institutional frameworks from Britain, despite Hong Kong’s 1997 handover to China under a one-country, two-systems formula.

“By implication, the Canadian refugee determination system has put the Hong Kong judicial system into disrepute. The person has no internal flight alternative, and cannot reasonably rely upon Hong Kong’s judicial structure for protection.”

The Globe reported earlier this year that close to 50 Hong Kongers – many of whom took part in the massive demonstrations that began last year – have already applied for asylum in Canada, citing harassment and brutality at the hands of police in Hong Kong and fear of unjust prosecution.

Conservative foreign-affairs critic Michael Chong said Canada must do more than just “accept a handful” of asylum seekers from Hong Kong, where a harsh new security law was imposed by Beijing this summer – one that criminalizes dissent and opposition.

“Processing a handful of asylum claims from those fleeing Hong Kong is not commensurate to the crisis that is unfolding there,” he said. “Canada needs to do more to provide a path for those seeking asylum from the imposition of China’s draconian new national security law.”

Mr. Chong said Canada should work with allies, such as Britain, to admit many more Hong Kongers fleeing. There is no reason why Canada couldn’t follow the British lead by offering a path to citizenship to Hong Kong residents, he said.

Hong Kongers coming to Canada would enrich the country because “they are highly educated” and would provide immense economic benefit, he added.

Avvy Go of Toronto’s Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic said it’s urgent to act now to help the people of Hong Kong.

“The situation is getting worse. More and more people have been arrested. It is clear the Hong Kong government is not going back down. … We need [to] act now before they arrest more people and their passports are seized,” she said.

Mr. Kurland said he still expects a surge of immigration from Hong Kong and more refugee claims. Canada has not yet unveiled special measures to facilitate migration from Hong Kong. He said Ottawa appears to be keeping this in abeyance until “things turn urgent and you see a wave of claimants from Hong Kong.”

Former Liberal justice minister Irwin Cotler, an international champion of human rights, urged the Trudeau government to grant asylum to any Hong Kong resident seeking to escape China’s draconian national security law.

“I wouldn’t be limiting it to two. This has been such a serious assault on democracy for the national security legislation that impacts on everyone … and puts anyone in Canada who supports them at risk so we need to have a response that says we are here to protect those who we are able to protect and to facilitate their coming to Canada,” he said.

The Hong Kong couple accepted as refugees received the support of a Canadian group called New Hong Kong Cultural Club.

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/politics/article-canada-starts-accepting-hong-kong-activists-as-refugees/