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.


Canada failing to address rising complaints about foreign intimidation of rights activists, Amnesty International says

Significant issue and more concrete action warranted:

Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne said Ottawa will not tolerate the intimidation of human rights activists in this country by foreign governments after a democracy activist told a parliamentary committee she and her family have faced threats from Beijing over the past year.

But Amnesty International said Wednesday that Canada’s response to rising complaints about bullying by pro-China forces has been hapless, muddled and ineffective.

Parliamentary hearings on Canada-China relations this week in Ottawa included testimony from Canadians of Hong Kong origin, who described threats they’ve received on Canadian soil during the course of their advocacy for democratic rights in the former British colony.

Cherie Wong, executive director of Alliance Canada Hong Kong, told the Commons committee on Canada-China relations that she has been the target of “death and rape threats,” as well as talk of harming her family, over the past 12 months. At rallies – even on Parliament Hill – pro-Beijing supporters have harassed and threatened those demonstrating in support of Hong Kong. Afterward, the personal information of pro-Hong Kong demonstrators – cellphone numbers, e-mail addresses, photos, class schedules – was published online.

Her experience echoes a May report by Amnesty International Canada and other groups warning that Chinese government officials and supporters of the Communist Party of China are increasingly resorting to “threats, bullying and harassment” to intimidate and silence activists in Canada, including those raising concerns about democracy and civil rights in Hong Kong, and Beijing’s mistreatment of Uyghurs, Tibetans and Falun Gong practitioners.

This intimidation includes threats of sexual violence and other physical violence against targets in Canada, as well as their family members in Hong Kong and China.

Conservative foreign affairs critic Leona Alleslev asked Mr. Champagne on Wednesday in the House of Commons about testimony such as Ms. Wong’s, and whether the government would introduce legislation to fight foreign interference.

“Witnesses at the Canada-China committee stated the People’s Republic of China is actively threatening Canadians on Canadian soil who seek to expose China’s authoritarian agenda. These individuals have been subjected to everything from physical threats, commercial blacklisting and state-backed cyberhacking with no protection from Canada. When will this government introduce legislation to combat foreign influence and protect basic human rights in Canada from aggressive actions of the Chinese Communist Party?” Ms. Alleslev asked.

Mr. Champagne told the Commons that Canada does not allow such intimidation and said Ottawa has been swift to address it.

“Let me be very clear, the safety and protection of Canadians is paramount to this government. We will never allow any form of foreign interference in Canada by state or non-state actors,” the Foreign Affairs Minister said.

He said Canada has acted whenever complaints have arisen. “Every time there have been allegations … we have taken action with the Minister of Public Safety,” he said, and advised Canadians to contact the police if they are being threatened.

“We invite any Canadians who might be subject to any form of such actions that have been described to contact law enforcement authorities and we will always defend the freedom and liberty of Canadians in Canada from foreign interference.”

But Alex Neve, secretary-general at Amnesty International Canada, said the response from Canadian authorities to such complaints has been unco-ordinated and disappointing. He said that in 2017 and again in May this year, Amnesty and other groups in the Canadian Coalition on Human Rights in China published reports on the intimidation and threats, as well as recommendations to address it – but these have received little response.

He said targets of harassment end up discouraged. “Individuals have often found they turn to one agency only to be told to go to another, and yet another, and at the end of the day told, ‘Well, we share the concern, but there’s not really anything that can be done here because it’s not a clear criminal offence,’ or, ‘You don’t have enough evidence.’ ”

The Amnesty-led coalition has recommended establishing a point person and hotline to handle complaints, talking to China about the harassment, and the consideration of a law to counter foreign interference as other countries such as Australia have enacted.

Mr. Neve said the response from the Canadian government, from security agencies and from police “lacks coherence and at the end of the day therefore is entirely ineffective.”

“Individuals experiencing these instances of interference and of threats, including threats of sexual and other physical violence and threats against family members in Hong Kong or in China, are largely left without effective recourse, often unsure where to turn and what to expect,” he said in recommendations provided to the Canada-China committee this week.

“It may be a considerable challenge to counter China’s influence on the world stage, it may be difficult to exert pressure for human rights reform on the ground in China, but there is no excuse for a failure to take robust and decisive steps to counter human rights abuses that may be linked to or backed by Beijing – connected to what is happening in Hong Kong, but taking place here in Canada.”

The Chinese embassy in Ottawa did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Source: Canada failing to address rising complaints about foreign intimidation of rights activists, Amnesty International says

Major Chinese-language newspaper rejects group’s ad criticizing Hong Kong security law

Of note (worrisome):

Canada’s largest-circulation Chinese-language newspaper recently rejected a full-page ad criticizing the new Hong Kong national security law and one of the law’s Canadian supporters, raising new concerns about a pro-Beijing slant in Chinese-Canadian media.

A loose collection of 40 or so pro-democracy activists had been willing to spend $3,000 to purchase the spot in Sing Tao , a newspaper half-owned by Torstar, the Toronto Star’s parent company, said two of the activists.

As well as being condemned by Western governments and human-rights organizations, the security law imposed by China on Hong Kong last month has alarmed many Canadians with ties to the city.

But the activists said the paper refused to run the statement, partly because it criticized David Choi, chair of the National Congress of Chinese Canadians and a booster of the controversial legislation.

The Congress has a long history of pro-China advocacy.

The activist group re-submitted the ad without mentioning Choi by name. A saleswoman said it had been rejected again because “our senior management do not feel comfortable posting it,” said one member of the group.

“They’re not allowing us to practice our freedom of speech,” complained another of the activists, who asked to be identified only by his surname, Wong, citing the security law’s apparently global reach. “This is scandalous.”

After submitting the advertisement to Sing Tao July 17 and having it rejected first on July 19, then again on July 21, the B.C. group took it to rival Ming Pao . That newspaper agreed to run the version of the statement that did not mention Choi or the NCCC, said Wong.

The incident adds to longstanding complaints that many of Canada’s Chinese-language media outlets eschew negative content about China’s Communist Party-led regime.

But a Sing Tao manager dismissed any suggestion his organization was trying to censor China critics.

The newspaper reviews all ad submissions for “libelous contents, good taste and other legal issues,” said Andrew Lai, general manager of Sing Tao Daily .

“After carefully reviewing the said advertisement (under) the anonymous name of ‘a group of Canadian Hong Kongers,’ we declined the said advertisement,” he said.

The paper has not shied from reporting on both sides of the Hong Kong conflict, argued Lai. He cited a recent story on a protest by Canadians of Hong Kong background in Vancouver against Choi’s support for the security law and his claim that he speaks for most Chinese Canadians.

Lai also pointed to three letters it printed on one day in June that criticized the initiative.

“Sing Tao Daily’s basic aim as a newspaper serving the Canadian Chinese community is to engage in the full and frank dissemination of news and opinion.”

Advocates for human rights in China do not agree.

Both Sing Tao and Ming Pao have for the last ten years refused to run ads from the Toronto association for democracy in China to commemorate the 1989 Tienanmen Square massacre, said association spokesman Cheuk Kwan.

“This rejection of an ad critical of Choi and the NCCC is par for the course,” Kwan said. “Another case of Chinese (government) influence in our civic society and politics. In this case, media self-censorship by the Chinese-language media.”

He charges that the Chinese embassy and consulates exert influence on ethnic media here either directly, through owners tied to Beijing, or via the leverage of advertising by China-friendly businesses.

In a high-profile 2009 episode, a senior Sing Tao editor altered a Toronto Stararticle on Tibet to remove criticism of China before publishing it in his own paper. The editor was eventually fired.

The National Congress itself has often appeared in line with Beijing. Last year, a congress leader echoed Beijing’s calls for the federal government to drop extradition proceedings against Meng Wanzhou, the Huawei CFO. The NCCC has backed installing the Chinese government’s controversial Confucius Institute at the Toronto public school board and allowing state-run CCTV onto Canadian cable. In 2003, the Chinese ambassador offered the congress “our highest compliment” for co-hosting an exhibit at Toronto City Hall that promoted China’s narrative on Tibet.

On a visit to Canada in 2007, Chinese diplomatic defector Chen Yonglin charged that the NCCC was in effect a front for the People’s Republic, a charge the group strongly denied.

Choi could not be reached for comment.

Beijing says the national security law is designed to quell violent demonstrations and restore order in Hong Kong. But critics warn it will crush the limited freedoms that set the city apart from mainland China, criminalizing subversion of government power, support for separatism, collusion with foreign forces and using violence in protests.

In Canada, the alleged self-censorship by Chinese-language media seems to have worsened amid China’s Hong Kong crackdown, said Cherie Wong of Alliance Canada Hong Kong.

Wong mentioned a recent, uncritical radio interview in Vancouver with Beijing’s consul general there, in which the diplomat lambasted Chinese-Canadian critics of the security law.

“There were no follow up questions from the journalist, it was very scripted,” said Wong. With the misleading news and this kind of misleading information circulating in ethnic media, our communities are at risk.”

The B.C. activists say they plan to write to Torstar, which owns about 50 per cent of Sing Tao , to complain about the ad rejection.

Source: Major Chinese-language newspaper rejects group’s ad criticizing Hong Kong security law

Timmy Wong: Chinese-Canadian groups that support Hong Kong’s National Security Law do not represent all Chinese-Canadians

Of note:

As Hong Kong-Canadians residing in Metro Vancouver, we are shocked and saddened by local groups supporting Hong Kong’s National Security Law who claim to represent all Chinese- and Hong Kong-Canadians. The National Congress of Chinese Canadians (NCCC), along with the Chinese Benevolent Association of Vancouver, have both publicly supported this law, which was unilaterally imposed on Hong Kong by Beijing on June 30. They ignore the diversity of opinions among the 1.7 million Hong Kong- and Chinese-Canadians, many of whom chose to immigrate to Canada for freedoms and rights that do not exist under the authoritarian rule of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

NCCC chairperson David Choi has made a video statement claiming that the majority of Hong Kong- and Chinese-Canadians support the National Security Law. Furthermore, he condones the atrocities committed by Chief Executive of Hong Kong Carrie Lam and the brutality of Hong Kong police in the name of “National Security.”

Choi further provoked the sensitive issue of Quebec separatism and terrorism, purposely misreading Canadian history to justify his support of this draconian law. NCCC has not been authorized by Hong Kong- or Chinese-Canadians to represent their view or voice since it has not received any mandate to do so from either of these communities.

What is more worrying is that the Beijing government — not any Hong Kong judicial or policy body — will have the ultimate power over how the law should be interpreted. If the law conflicts with any Hong Kong law, the Beijing law prevails. By supporting the National Security Law as Canadians, NCCC is persuading Canadians to support authoritarian rule in Hong Kong and beyond.

This legislation has effectively ended the “One Country, Two Systems” constitutional principle that guided the CCP’s rule of Hong Kong during the 50-year period of handover from Britain. Overnight, Hong Kong has become “just another Chinese city” under the dictatorial CCP. It has also turned into a police state with the establishment of the National Security Bureau, where protesting is essentially prohibited, social media posts are closely monitored, and any slogans supporting Hong Kong’s freedom are outlawed. Any speech that criticizes the CCP could lead to conviction under the charge of subversion. Even the investigation into the Hong Kong Police Force’s brutality against protesters for freedom could lead to charges against people in education institutes or religious and non-profit organizations who are engaged in the exchange of ideas and information. Also their foreign counterparts could be convicted under “Collusion with External or Foreign Forces” provisions in the new law.

Under the new National Security Law, anyone from any quarter in the world who is critical of China could be arrested and tried in secrecy and extradited from Hong Kong to Communist China without any opportunity to appeal. Crimes of “secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion” with foreign forces are punishable by a maximum sentence of life in prison. The impact is so serious that the Canadian government has issued a travel warning to Canadians that they could be arbitrarily arrested by the Hong Kong government under this draconian law. Yet NCCC still endorses the National Security Law, betraying the core Canadian values of free speech and human rights.

Hong Kongers are looking to the free world for refuge and protection from China’s state-sponsored terrorism, but the members of NCCC ignore their pleas for help. Instead, they endorse the totalitarian policy of CCP for Hong Kong and echo the CCP’s need to “defend National Security.” They do not and must not represent the voices of 1.7 million Canadians.

We, a group of Hong Kong-Canadians, have been protesting and advocating in solidarity with our fellow Hong Kongers in Hong Kong since June 2019. The world has seen the atrocities of how Hong Kong and Beijing governments treat the Hong Kongers and, one by one, countries are making a stand for freedom with Hong Kongers.

Unlike the NCCC, there are many Chinese- and Hong Kong-Canadians who are deeply aware of the privilege they have as settlers, and who are aware of the long history they have had in this nation fighting for political agency. Chinese-Canadians (who include Hong Kong-Canadians) were finally given the vote in 1947 after many of them served the country bravely and proudly in the Second World War. Their right to vote was a sign that Chinese-Canadians were finally accepted as full Canadians and given access to democracy, freedom, equality and human rights.

Unfortunately, the NCCC, the Chinese Benevolent Association, and many Chinese-Canadians appear to have now forgotten the hard-fought battle for their rights and freedoms in Canada. They enjoy the rights and privileges as protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and use their free speech to deny others the same freedom by propping up an authoritarian, power-hungry regime.

Many Hong Kongers who first moved to Canada moved here out of their fear of the CCP when the handover from the U.K. to China was first announced in 1984. On June 4, 1989, the Tiananmen Massacre hit the souls of many Hong Kongers and it triggered another wave of migration to Canada.

Many of us Hong Kong-Canadians are forever grateful to Canada for allowing us to settle and prosper in this free land. It is a duty as Canadians to stand on guard for freedom. It means that we will defend freedom of speech for the oppressed through our political agency. Many Hong Kong-Canadians have voiced their concerns over the deteriorating situation in Hong Kong through petitions, letter-writing campaigns, protest, and other forms of advocacy. The Canadian government has taken a clear stand by calling out Beijing’s crackdown as illegal and a violation of human rights, to the extent of suspending the extradition treaty with Hong Kong indefinitely. What NCCC claimed is in fact a direct contradiction to what many Canadians believe.

Source: Timmy Wong: Chinese-Canadian groups that support Hong Kong’s National Security Law do not represent all Chinese-Canadians

Chinese diplomat accuses critics of sowing division among Chinese Canadian community

As if Chinese diplomats are not themselves sowing divisions:

A Chinese diplomat is accusing Canadians who criticize Beijing’s new Hong Kong security law of trying to sow discord among people of Chinese origin in Canada.

Tong Xiaoling, China’s consul-general in Vancouver, told a Chinese-language radio program in Vancouver this week that pro-democracy activists in Canada who criticize the new security law enacted in Hong Kong are trying to foist their views on people who support Beijing’s move. Her interview was broadcast over Monday and Tuesday.

She said a “very few people, in both Hong Kong and local [Canada], have been maliciously denigrating and sabotaging Hong Kong’s national security legislation,” and she accused them of colluding with “anti-China forces” and trying to cause “trouble” overseas.

“Some people were trying to intimidate people who truly care about Hong Kong, stop them from voicing [their opinions] and launch personal attacks on them. [They] also try to create divisions in the ethnically Chinese community and sabotage China-Canada relations,” Ms. Tong said to Vancouver radio station 1320 AM, which bills itself as the “voice of Vancouver’s Chinese community.”

Ms. Tong proceeded to list various members of the Chinese community in Vancouver: those from Hong Kong, from Macau, from mainland China and the self-governing island of Taiwan.

Canadian activists for democracy in Hong Kong say that’s an unusual thing for a foreign government official to be concerned about. It’s not the Chinese government’s business to be actively concerned with the opinion of Canadians of Chinese origin, they say.

The Beijing-drafted national security law punishes what China broadly defines as subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison. Critics of the law fear it will crush the wide-ranging freedoms promised to the territory when it returned to Chinese rule in 1997, including the right to protest and an independent legal system. Supporters of the law say it will bring stability after last year’s often-violent anti-government and anti-China unrest.

Vancouver has been home to a number of rallies against the new national security law Beijing imposed on Hong Kong, including demonstrations outside Oakridge Centre and the local Chinese consulate.

Cherie Wong, executive director for Alliance Canada Hong Kong, an umbrella group for Hong Kong pro-democracy advocates in this country, said the Chinese government acts as though it has a proprietary claim on people of Chinese origin in Canada.

“Why would a foreign diplomat care about what the Chinese Canadian community thinks? It’s because the Chinese Communist Party feels a level of ownership over ethnically Chinese individuals,” Ms. Wong said.

“The accusation that we are dividing Chinese people is in fact reinforcing the idea that we are a monolith, which is very much incorrect. It’s part of the same propaganda, erasing the differences in political opinions.”

Guy Saint-Jacques, a former Canadian ambassador to Beijing, said that in his opinion the Chinese government devotes a lot of resources to try to shape the opinions of ethnically Chinese communities in foreign countries in the hope of influencing public policy. “The message is repeated all the time: Don’t forget the Motherland.”

He said Ms. Tong’s comments reflect a more assertive brand of Chinese foreign policy. “She should be reminded that Canadians are Canadians: We don’t make a distinction between Canadians of Chinese origin and Canadians of British origin.”

Members of the House of Common’s special Canada-China committee, meanwhile, are meeting this week to consider holding hearings on the new Hong Kong security law.

“Conservatives proposed months ago for the Canada-China Committee to reconvene for intensive study of the horrific and deteriorating situation in Hong Kong. A lot of time has been lost in the interim, and it is all the more urgent now for us to hold intensive hearings on the situation in Hong Kong,” Conservative MP Garnett Genuis, a member of the committee, said.

Ms. Tong told 1320 AM that the national security bill was designed to bring calm to Hong Kong. Mass protests began in mid-2019 over proposed legislative changes that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China. This civil disobedience later evolved into demands for greater democracy and autonomy.

She blamed foreign governments and even the self-ruled island of Taiwan for encouraging this disobedience.

She also said she understands some overseas Chinese people have expressed concerns over the new law, worrying that it will violate Hong Kong people’s rights and freedoms, but blamed biased media reports and foreign politicians for their concerns.

She said the law will target only a tiny minority of people who sabotage Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability and the national security.

“If you do not break such law, and aren’t involved in these activities, why do you need to worry about your safety?”

Source: Chinese diplomat accuses critics of sowing division among Chinese Canadian community

Hongkongers lose taste for overseas property elsewhere amid BN(O) offer

Interesting given possible impact on Canada for those with BNO passports (those without will, of course, continue to have interest in Canada as the implementation of the law continues):
Interest in overseas property in other countries has plunged among Hongkongers looking to emigrate, after the United Kingdom unveiled its path to citizenship for residents eligible for British National (Overseas) passports, immigration consultants said.

Applications for emigration to Canada and Taiwan, which had recorded the most interest following the introduction of the national security law, were the most affected by the UK’s announcement, said Raymond Chong, managing director at StarPro Immigration Consultancy. The company had received “several hundred enquiries per month” following the passage of the law by Beijing, but “some had withheld” their applications to other countries once the BN(O) option was revealed, Chong said.

“After the BN(O) [policy] was revealed, enquiries for properties outside the UK plummeted by more than half. Enquiries about BN(O) passports and the UK have skyrocketed, rising by four to five times,” he said.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the plan on July 1, paving the way for three million Hong Kong residents who are eligible for BN(O) passports to live and eventually settle in the UK. The BN(O) path is a much cheaper and faster way to emigrate and involves fewer procedures than other immigration programmes, StarPro’s Chong added.

An online survey of 300 Hong Kong residents conducted this month by Midland Immigration Consultancy found that about three in five BN(O) passport holders now had a greater desire to emigrate.

An increase in emigration from Hong Kong is also likely to drive up home prices in the UK, said Jan Hong, senior principal director at Centaline Immigration Consultants. He added that a recent stamp duty relaxation in the UK until the end of March 2021 would also boost the market.

The increase in transactions involving UK property would come at the expense of property deals elsewhere, where prices would see less upwards pressure, said StarPro’s Chong. “Hong Kong funds will shift to the UK,” he said. “But foreign property purchases [by Hongkongers] do not usually account for a large portion of housing transactions in these countries, so the impact will be limited.”

Portugal, a favourite destination among Hong Kong residents looking to invest in property abroad because of its golden visa scheme, has seen fewer enquiries of late. Overseas buyers are believed to have contributed to a surge in housing prices, which, however, fell by about 14 per cent in March because of the coronavirus outbreak, according to the country’s National Statistics Institute. Its property market has recovered gradually over the past three months, according to property data company Confidencial Imobiliario.

And a minority of Hong Kong residents – especially those without BN(O) passports – is still expected to choose Portugal, because they are not required to live there and can get passports through the country’s golden visa scheme. These passports will allow them to remain in Hong Kong, while their children can study in primary and secondary schools in the UK for free after getting Irish residency, thanks to a European Union and UK policy.

Elsewhere, interest in property in Cyprus and Greece has sustained despite the UK’s BN(O) policy. The absence of a requirement to live in Cyprus, another former British colony, and the promise of good weather add to its appeal, said Pantelis Leptos, director of The Leptos Group.

Investors qualify for Cypriot citizenship through the Cyprus Investment Programme, on purchase of property worth €2 million. They can sell the property after five years.

Another option is permanent residency, which is available to investors who purchase property worth 300,000 in Cyprus, and 250,000 in Greece. But owners need to keep the property as long as they want to keep their residency.

Source: Hongkongers lose taste for overseas property elsewhere amid BN(O) offer

‘Exodus’ from Hong Kong? Those who fear national security law mull best offers from welcoming countries

Will see in the end how many decide to leave Hong Kong given that some likely have business interests that make leaving more difficult but given the large number of Canadian expatriates, would expect a significant number of returnees and immigrants and refugee claimants:
For several weeks, veteran emigration consultant Willis Fu Yiu-wai

found himself busier than usual ,answering queries from Hongkongers anxious to leave the city.

They were worried about Beijing’s new national security law for Hong Kong, which came into force on June 30.

In recent days, however, Fu’s clients appeared in less of a rush to go. They had not changed their minds about leaving, but now wanted to wait and see which country would offer Hongkongers the best immigration deal.

“They said they didn’t want to proceed yet,” he said.

Many decided to hold on after Britain announced this month that it would offer a new path to citizenship to nearly 3 million Hongkongers
eligible for British National (Overseas) Passports. These people, born before Britain returned Hong Kong to China in 1997, will have the right to remain in the country for five years, after which they can apply for permanent residence and, eventually, citizenship.
Since then, Australia also announced plans
to welcome Hongkongers. Now those considering emigration are anticipating that other countries will open their doors too.

“It has upended the whole market,” said Jason Yu Wai-lung, chief immigration consultant at Smart2Go, another firm helping people who want to emigrate.

The national security law, which targets acts of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces, has sparked concerns over

sweeping powers handed to policeand the possible erosion of human rights in Hong Kong.

After Beijing first announced in May that it would tailor-make a law for Hong Kong, inquiries shot up at Fu’s firm, Goldmax Immigration. At one point, it received 60 inquiry forms in a day, six times the usual.

Fu said many of his clients were nurses from “almost every hospital in Hong Kong” and mainly in their 20s to 40s.

He said the British proposal for those with BN(O) passports offered a breakthrough deal for skilled Hongkongers who do not have a lot of money. Up till now, there have been high barriers to moving to Britain, such as unique professional skills, high proficiency in the English language, or hefty investments of at least 2 million pounds (HK$19.5 million).

About 350,000 Hongkongers already hold BN(O) passports, and more are eligible to apply for it.

Protester worries about reprisal

Salesman Leo Chan*, 26, said he would be ready to leave as soon as the British government laid down its plan. The university-educated Hongkonger said he feared for himself as he waved the Union flag while taking part in anti-government protests last year.

Although the law has no retroactive effect, Chan said he was still worried. Before Britain announced its offer, he was prepared to apply for any working holiday visa he could get, to some countries which allow visitors to stay and work for up to a year or two.

Now he has set his sights on the new route to Britain. “It seems easier, and brings a better chance of settling there,” he said.

David Lee* fears he might run into trouble with the new law, having worked as a journalist in Hong Kong. He and his wife, who holds a British passport, have also decided to leave.

Britain seems a natural choice as his wife has family there, but the couple are waiting to see if the United States might have an immigration offer for Hongkongers, as they prefer the latter.

In June, Britain began briefing members of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance  – the US, Australia, Canada and New Zealand – about a possible exodus from Hong Kong.
Last Thursday, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that his administration would grant more than 10,000 Hongkongers on student and temporary visas a pathway to permanent residence  by allowing them to stay in the country for five years. He said Australia was ready to welcome Hongkongers with skills and businesses and looking to start a new life elsewhere.

According to 2018 data on Australia’s Department of Education website, the country granted more than 11,000 visas for Hong Kong students. The Australian offer will also apply to future visa holders and students from Hong Kong.

Beijing has criticised Britain and Australia for their offers of haven to Hongkongers wishing to flee the national security law.

Will they leave? ‘Too early to say’

Sociology professor Eric Fong Wai-ching, who specialises in migration at the University of Hong Kong, said it was one thing for people to say they intend to leave, and quite another for them to actually uproot and go. He felt it was too early to conclude that there would be an exodus from Hong Kong.

“Many are still at the planning stage,” he said, although he pointed to an uptick of applications for “certificates of no criminal conviction”, a document granted by police to those applying for a wide range of visas, including for education and emigration.

According to police, the number of certificates issued rose to 2,782 in June, from 1,711 in the previous month. Last year 33,252 were issued, a sharp rise from around 20,000 in previous years. Last year’s increase came in the wake of months of anti-government protests.

But another indicator of people leaving Hong Kong for good – the number of tax clearance filings to the Inland Revenue – has not changed significantly.

The tax authority processed 2,500 such filings a month in May and June this year, its spokesman said. There were on average 2,400 monthly cases in the financial years of 2019-20 and 2018-19.

For some Hongkongers, Taiwan is also a popular emigration destination due to its proximity and similar culture, according Yu from Smart2Go, who specialises in helping people move there. One attraction is the relatively low investment required to migrate there – about HK$1.5 million.

In the first five months of this year, Taiwan granted permanent residence to 558 Hongkongers, following on 1,474 over the whole of last year and just below 1,100 each year between 2016 and 2018.

Taiwan announced last month that apart from providing humanitarian support to Hongkongers feeling anxious over the national security law, it would also offer immigration assistance to those keen to invest there or who possess special talents.

Emigration consultant Yu said inquiries about Taiwan leapt tenfold during the worst of the Covid-19 pandemic, mostly from retirees, although about 20 per cent were younger people.

There was a change after Britain announced its plan for those with BN(O) passports. “People under 40 years old who made inquiries have completely disappeared,” he said.

Only older people were still considering moving to Taiwan now, he said, drawn mainly by the island’s lower living costs. The new national security law has pushed some to make up their minds sooner.

“Some of them now want to put their plans into action, and bring forward their retirement,” Yu said.

Source: Hongkongers looking to migrate mull best offers from host countries

Will Chinese students want to study abroad post-COVID-19?

Well, we will know for sure this summer, the peak period for arrivals.

But an interesting snapshot of intentions, carried out by Ka Ho Mok of Lingnan University, Hong Kong, but without baseline data that would make it more meaningful.

And interesting, given the large number of Chinese students in Canada, that Canada was not mentioned, along with the importance of health and safety concerns.

Of course, intentions are different than behaviour, and the work that Dan Hiebert, Howard Ramos and I are doing will provide the basis for deeper analysis:

The world is facing an unprecedented health crisis with the spread of COVID-19 across different corners of the globe. Well before the present global health crisis, growing debates have been emerging with regard to the future of internationalisation of education, especially as people begin to question the value and benefits that international education brings. The COVID-19 pandemic again raises the issue of the future of international higher education.

Will COVID-19 adversely affect international education and student mobility? A recent study published by the British Council in April 2020 shows that 39% of Chinese students who were considering studying in the United Kingdom are unsure about whether to cancel their study plans.

China is the largest source of international students in the UK, with 115,014 study visas issued to Chinese students in 2019, representing 45% of international study visas.

When asked about their major concerns regarding overseas learning, the majority of the respondents overwhelmingly rated health and well-being (79%), personal safety (87%), finances (86%) and application difficulties (70%) as their major worries.

Worse still, the international media report a number of cases showing Asian students and residents have experienced discrimination or even assaults when wearing face masks in the UK, Europe and Australia. Such images will have affected Chinese students’ plans and choices for international education.

Studying abroad: Chinese student perspectives

It is against the context of confronting the COVID-19 pandemic that a Lingnan University research team distributed questionnaires to non-local students in Hong Kong and students in mainland China, asking them to share their plans regarding study overseas after the global health crisis.

In addition, we also invited them to indicate their preferred destinations when choosing to study abroad.

The questionnaires were distributed online in late April to early May 2020. By mid-May, we had successfully reached out to around 2,900 respondents and secured 2,739 valid responses after data cleaning.

Hong Kong, as an international metropolis, is also a traditionally popular choice for mainland Chinese students to further their studies.

This survey about Chinese students’ plans for overseas learning was conducted after another survey reported that citizens living in the Greater Bay Area (GBA) in Guangdong province held negative perceptions of Hong Kong earlier in April 2020 following the protests in Hong Kong after the introduction of the Fugitive Offenders amendment bill by the Hong Kong government.

The GBA survey shows people in Guangdong, China, find Hong Kong no longer friendly, safe or well managed in terms of urban governance. Such perceptions will inevitably affect mainland students’ preferences when it comes to making Hong Kong their destination for further studies.

Whether people outside the city perceive Hong Kong as performing well in social management, safety, tolerance and friendliness will have a direct impact on their decisions about studying and working in Hong Kong.

According to our survey about Chinese students’ overseas study plans, most of the respondents (84.4%) said they would choose not to study overseas and only 16% of the interviewees still have plans to study abroad when the global health crisis is over.

When asked about their preferred destinations for overseas learning, the United States remains the most popular destination for study abroad in higher education, followed by Hong Kong.

One point which deserves particular attention is that many of the respondents prefer to study in Asian countries or regions, with Japan and Taiwan being equally popular (on 10.8%), though the UK is rated third (12.2%) among the top five destinations.

The less preferred countries are as follows: France (3.3%), New Zealand (3.3%), South Korea (3.04%), Malaysia (0.94%) and Italy (0.94%).

We found that those students who had previous overseas learning experiences or had enrolled in transnational education programmes through the Sino-foreign cooperative universities based in mainland China showed more interest in pursuing higher degrees through international education.

Among this cohort of students, the intention to study overseas is around 20% higher than among the rest of the survey participants.

Interestingly, Hong Kong is chosen as the second most popular destination by these students.

The above findings are consistent with recent research examining how Chinese students who graduate from UK universities assess the relevance of the overseas learning experiences they received to job acquisition or career development. The present survey again shows the perceived importance of international learning to Chinese students.

Policy implications

Despite the fact that the above data indicate a declining interest in international learning, Hong Kong stands out as a popular destination for those who opt for overseas learning, despite GBA citizens’ concerns about the city being friendly and safe.

A successful world city depends on attracting and retaining world talent. The two surveys draw important policy insights not only for the Hong Kong government but also for society at large. The city is facing unprecedented challenges and concerted efforts are urgently needed to be put together to make Hong Kong competitive and to rebuild its reputation as a friendly and hospitable city for mainland Chinese students.

After fighting COVID-19, academic leaders in Hong Kong need to develop appropriate strategies to attract students from the GBA to come to the city for higher education, seriously engaging with universities in the GBA to promote innovation-centric entrepreneurship.

Our research findings on Chinese students’ choice when planning their international education offer useful policy insights for higher education institutions across different parts of the world, especially when institutions of higher education have relied heavily on Chinese students as one of their major funding sources or incomes.

For small university towns across the UK, Europe, US and Australia, the survey indicates that whether students feel safe and secure will become a major factor influencing their study plans.

Are we ready to embrace internationalisation of education when the COVID-19 crisis is over?

Is it ethical to take in foreign students if local residents are not ready to adapt to diverse understandings and experiences when managing the global health crisis, including the acceptance of ‘wearing face masks’ as a preventive measure?

These are critical issues for us to reflect upon.

Professor Ka Ho Mok is vice president and dean of the School of Graduate Studies and Lam Man Tsan Chair Professor of Comparative Policy at Lingnan University, Hong Kong.

Canada has an unused card up its sleeve against China: our immigration system

Valid suggestions by Robert Falconer and to focus on Hong Kong asylum seekers and others from mainland China:

Canada is limited in the ways it can respond to the bully tactics of larger countries such as the People’s Republic of China. Yet as it confronts China’s heavy-handed attempt to quash the autonomy it had promised Hong Kong, Ottawa is not without levers of influence. One policy tool that Canada should immediately deploy is our immigration, refugee and asylum system.

As governments worldwide closed their countries’ borders, and as the United Nations suspended its refugee program, a more subtle trend emerged: an uptick in the number of Hong Kongers claiming asylum. According to the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, 25 Hong Kongers have claimed asylum in the first three months of 2020; unofficial sources suggest the number may be as high as 46. While that’s still a relatively small number, it represents a six-year high for Canada in just three months. Regardless of the choices Canada makes, we are likely to see record-high levels of people from Hong Kong fleeing here to seek refuge when international travel fully resumes.

Our asylum system is particularly well-suited to receiving claims from Hong Kong. It includes the ability to streamline cases from countries with well-established human-rights abuses, where asylum seekers have reliable forms of identification, and where the evidence is not ambiguous regarding the risks they face for holding an adverse political opinion or for opposing the current government.

Choosing to welcome those seeking asylum is not only the right thing to do but has practical benefits as well. It might seem odd to make a utilitarian argument in favour of asylum, and indeed, if all policy-makers and politicians were angels, such a justification would not be necessary. But there is a compelling case to be made for a renewed Canadian foreign policy that considers the role immigration and refugee status plays in our national security and response to foreign competitors. As the People’s Republic seeks to impose its will on Hong Kong, an open refugee policy is one that permits Hong Kongers to vote with their feet between an oppressive China or an open Canada.

The decision to welcome Hong Kongers as part of a robust foreign policy is not without precedent. Conservative governments in the 1970s and ’80s understood that an open-door policy was one that would attract those with the greatest levels of dissatisfaction in the Soviet bloc. The arrival of refugees and immigrants during that time strengthened our economies and added linguistic diversity and cultural understanding to our law enforcement, military and intelligence communities.

The same applies to Hong Kongers and mainland Chinese fleeing oppression. Indeed, combatting the possibility of intellectual-property theft and industrial espionage is far more likely to be aided, rather than hampered, by recruiting from a population that shares similar cultural and linguistic characteristics and understands the methods of potential competitors. Above all, welcoming Hong Kongers aligns with Canadian democratic traditions – standing against tyranny and welcoming the oppressed.

Granting asylum to Hong Kongers fleeing persecution from Beijing should not be a difficult task for this government, either. While the Trudeau government has shifted its tone regarding Canada’s relationship with China, it has faltered when asked whether Canada will accept refugee claimants from Hong Kong. In contrast, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced that Britain will allow 2.8 million Hong Kongers to live and work in Britain if China implements its national-security law on the former British colony. In response, the Chinese Communist Party regime has threatened Britain with vague consequences if it continues to meddle in an “internal affair.”

Granting asylum to Hong Kongers will force the federal government to recognize the well-established truth that China is a hostile actor, and doing so will signal to both the international community and China that Canada acknowledges that hard truth. Dealing with China is not a risk- or cost-free interaction. There are no other options, aside from total silence, that will not draw retaliation from Beijing, and it should be expected if Canada decides to grant asylum to claimants from Hong Kong. But the government needs to accept this reality, recognize the risks and rethink how to move forward. Granting asylum to Hong Kongers seeking to flee persecution is not only the right thing to do – it is the Canadian thing to do.

For a government that prides itself on the principles of championing human rights, our inaction on Hong Kong remains a persistent dark stain.

Hong Kong: Alarm over universities’ backing of national security law

More bad news regarding Hong Kong institutions and Chinese government repression:

The heads of the governing councils of Hong Kong’s eight publicly funded universities have backed a plan announced by Beijing last month to impose a national security law on the city, in an act that many academics see as ‘doing Beijing’s bidding’.

Some fear such statements on policies from Beijing emanating from universities could lead to the politicisation of institutions in Hong Kong, which are already polarised between pro-democracy and pro-Beijing groups.

China’s view is that increasingly violent protests over the past year in Hong Kong are a threat to national security. But when it was first revealed last month, the national security law took Hong Kong and the world by surprise – in particular because it would be imposed directly by Beijing on Hong Kong, in contravention of treaties allowing Hong Kong to keep freedoms separate from mainland China under the policy of ‘one country, two systems’.

A resolution was passed in the 28 May session of China’s rubber-stamp parliament, the National People’s Congress (NPC), to draft the law to prohibit “acts of subversion, succession, terrorism and involvement with foreign interference in Hong Kong”. It would also allow China’s security intelligence agencies to operate in Hong Kong.

The joint statement released on 1 June by the chair of the governing councils of eight Hong Kong universities said: “As residents of Hong Kong, we enjoy the protection provided by the state, and in turn have a reciprocal obligation to protect the state by supporting the introduction of legislation which prohibits criminal acts that threaten the existence of the state.”

”We therefore support the national security laws which will operate under the principle of ‘one country, two systems’, to better ensure universities can continue to create knowledge through research and learning,” it added.

Council statement followed a more limited statement

But hours earlier, university vice-chancellors and presidents of five of the eight universities – Hong Kong University, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Lingnan University and the Education University of Hong Kong – issued their own joint statement which said: “We fully support ‘one country, two systems’, understand the need for national security legislation and value the freedom of speech, of the press, of publication, of assembly and other rights the Basic Law confers upon the people of Hong Kong.”

The Basic Law is Hong Kong’s mini constitution.

Conspicuous by their absence were the signatures of the heads of City University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong Baptist University and Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. City University sources said the university administration sought to “separate education and politics” while backing the ‘one country, two systems’ principle.

A separate statement from Baptist University President Roland Chin was a more subdued version. “We highly appreciate the importance of national security and Hong Kong’s stability,” Chin said. “It is our earnest hope that the national security legislation will continue to protect academic freedom and institutional autonomy as promised in the Basic Law.”

Willy Lam, adjunct professor at the Centre for China Studies at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK), said: “The council is the highest ruling body in any university so adding the council means doubling down on this protestation of support for Beijing. Usually the [university] president would be enough.”

Lam said he assumed the governments in Beijing and Hong Kong had put pressure on university presidents to profess public support for the national security law. “In the NPC discussion about Hong Kong they emphasised a need to boost patriotic education, so education is very important for the Chinese government. They are very keen to have [university] presidents sign up to this profession of support for Beijing,” Lam told University World News.

“This is standard [Communist] Party strategy to prop up its legitimacy by showing its policies have ‘support’,” said another CUHK academic. “Beijing wants to show that their hated national security law has support of respected academics and academic institutions.”

A proportion of university council members are directly appointed by Hong Kong’s chief executive, who also acts as chancellor of all the publicly funded universities. The two statements came just before a trip to Beijing on 3 June by Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam and other top Hong Kong officials, reportedly to discuss the new law.

Carrie Lam said last week her administration would fully cooperate with Beijing on the legislation, which will be enacted in Hong Kong without any input from Hong Kong’s legislature.

Precedents in issuing joint statements

Academics noted that it was not unusual for university presidents in Hong Kong to issue joint statements, though these were usually in relation to issues directly related to university affairs and student activities, particularly during the Umbrella Movement student protests in 2014-16 and student protests over the now withdrawn Hong Kong bill to extradite criminals to China, which saw weeks of unbroken protests from June 2019 to January 2020.

In June 2019, 10 university heads issued a joint statement urging calm as students began their protests against the extradition bill.

Joint statements have included a statement in November from nine university presidents criticising government demands for universities to resolve student discontent which led to major campus battles with police at CUHK and the Hong Kong Polytechnic University in November 2019.

Joint statements from university governing councils are rarer, but in October 2019, in the wake of a large number of students being arrested during protests, and attempts by university heads to assist them in various ways, the heads of eight university governing councils in Hong Kong issued a joint statement saying assistance provided by universities to arrested students and staff did not represent any support for their political views.

In September 2017, 10 university presidents and vice-chancellors issued a joint statement condemning “abuses” of freedom of expression after some students put up banners advocating Hong Kong’s independence from China. “We do not support Hong Kong independence, which contravenes the Basic Law,” that statement said.

Beijing demands support

Beijing-backed groups in Hong Kong have been exhorting companies and organisations to publicly support the proposed law, including civil servants, police and immigration officers, as well as canvassing individuals to sign a petition in favour of the law.

“Calling on university administrations to back the law proposed by Beijing is not the Hong Kong way of doing things. This law is not directly part of campus governance. Instead, it is the Communist Party’s common practice of co-opting groups and individuals to show allegiance and support of the party,” said one normally outspoken academic who asked in this instance to remain anonymous. “Hong Kong’s universities are autonomous; they should not be backing political positions decided in Beijing.”

Lokman Tsui, assistant professor at CUHK’s school of journalism and communication, said via Twitter: “As a professor at CUHK I want to express my opposition to the national security legislation. I am concerned it will harm Hong Kong’s freedom of speech, press freedom, academic freedom and the rule of law that underpins these and other freedoms.”

Well-known Hong Kong publisher Jimmy Lai, who was arrested on 28 February, along with other major pro-democracy figures on charges of illegal assembly, and was later released on bail, referred to the joint statement by the five university heads in a tweet: “This is the end of academic freedom in HK. Higher education was once a paramount institution in defending our freedom to pursue knowledge.”