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

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