Canada overtakes U.K. as destination for Hong Kong students amid mounting exodus

Of note:

Thousands of Hong Kong students are choosing to come to Canada over countries like the U.K. and Australia, with more and more of its citizens applying for study permits abroad and contributing to a mounting exodus amid China’s growing control over the region.

This year, Canada has approved 7,920 study permits to students coming from Hong Kong, up from about 6,300 in 2021, according to Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) data. Historically, Canada issued less than 3,000 annually — numbers that were eclipsed in the month of August 2022 alone.

The Hong Kong government’s increasing hard line against mass protests and China’s growing control over the region has coincided with more than 100,000 people leaving the region in the past two years, mostly to the United Kingdom, Australia, Singapore and Canada.

U.K. data shows just over 5,000 study permits were issued to Hong Kong students between January and September this year, while Australia issued just over 2,000 by Oct. 31.

“One country, two systems definitely never delivered,” said Ken Tung, president of the B.C.-based Civic Education Society.

“Hong Kongers realized that, and you can see people started moving.”

Pathway to permanent residency through education

Protests erupted across Hong Kong in 2019, sparked by an extradition bill that many of the city’s residents vehemently opposed, saying it would give the government powers to arbitrarily extradite anyone in Hong Kong to China to face the legal system there.

The protests began peacefully but would escalate with demonstrators clashing with police who have been accused of unlawful use of force. In the ensuing months, authorities arrested more than 10,000 people related to the protests, more than 2,900 of whom were prosecuted, according to figures released up to February 2022.

“You can see the freedom of Hong Kong, the democracy, the justice system, collapsing,” said Tung. “You can see all the talented people, all the people with resources, leaving Hong Kong. And I think Canada understands the situation.”

In 2021, Canada opened an expedited pathway for Hong Kong residents to receive Canadian permanent residency if they graduate through a designated post-secondary program. It will last until 2026.

In a statement, IRCC said it expects “this increased opportunity to remain in Canada permanently has encouraged many Hong Kongers to study here.”

Tung says Metro Vancouver and the Greater Toronto Area are the main regions where students are settling, with the pathway attracting people of all ages pursuing varying degrees of education.

“But even professionals, they can actually come to study a masters degree and strengthen their knowledge, and many of them, with a professional job, they’d like to learn something else,” he said.

“If that helps them to stay in Canada to contribute, I think that strengthens both sides — for them, and also for Canada.”

Source: Canada overtakes U.K. as destination for Hong Kong students amid mounting exodus

Hong Kongers returning to Vancouver after years of population decline, census shows

Not surprising given Chinese government takeover:

Ken Tung says he recently helped a new arrival from Hong Kong find a basement unit in Metro Vancouver for only $500 rent per month, thanks to a discount by a sympathetic landlord.

“It’s a good price,” said Tung, who said he has helped at least 100 young people from Hong Kong settle in Canada over the past three years.

But Tung said he’s playing a relatively limited role resettling Hong Kongers compared to Vancouver-based groups, including churches, that have helped thousands.

“I know many churches and their people are helping Hong Kong newcomers .… People are donating furniture and lowering the rent to help them out,” said Tung.

Tung and others like him are facilitating a shift that shows up in new Canadian census figures.

The data released this week shows the Hong Kong-born population of Canada is on the rise, with a large majority settling in the Vancouver region, reversing a return-migration trend that had previously seen thousands of Hong Kongers leaving Canada.

Experts say the shift is being propelled by a political crackdown in Hong Kong, which came under a sweeping national security law in 2020 after anti-government protests.

The 2021 census shows a 6.1 per cent increase of Hong Kong-born people in Vancouver’s census metropolitan area in the past five years, bringing the total population to more than 76,000. It had previously been falling for decades.

The increase of 4,395 accounts for 90 per cent of the Canada-wide increase of Hong Kongers since 2016, when the previous census was conducted.

Many more are on the way, using new migration pathways that Canada opened up to Hong Kongers last year.

Tung said he wasn’t surprised by the census numbers.

He said Hong Kongers arriving in Metro Vancouver recently mainly fell into four categories — returnees who already hold Canadian citizenship, people arriving on new work permits, students and some asylum seekers.

He said their motivations were largely the same. “The answer is simple — they can’t see a future in Hong Kong,” Tung said

The national security law has been used to target protesters and political opponents of the Hong Kong government and the Chinese Communist Party.

Tung said those leaving Hong Kong did so after watching Hong Kong go from being “open, modernized” to “hardcore communism.”

Hong Kong was Canada’s biggest source of immigrants in the lead-up to the 1997 handover to China, but Hong Kongers’ presence in Canada had been shrinking steadily for years as thousands moved back to the former British colony.

The crackdown in Hong Kong was followed by the establishment of new Canadian migration pathways in response.

But while the census shows 2,385 recent Hong Kong immigrants to the Vancouver census metropolitan area in the preceding five years, that number is outstripped by the actual increase in the Hong Kong-born population, suggesting more than 45 per cent of newcomers already held Canadian citizenship or some other status.

One such newcomer, a financial analyst who declined to be named for safety reasons, said he was born in Hong Kong but immigrated to Canada with his parents and finished his studies here.

His parents brought the family to Canada in the wake of the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown in Beijing, which triggered an exodus from Hong Kong and Taiwan.

But in the mid-2000s, he went back to Hong Kong for work. It wasn’t until last year he decided to reverse direction again, returning to Vancouver with his wife and son.

“I used to have the freedom to speak my mind, have choices in reading different news media and discuss in public without any repercussion. This is really valuable to me .… And therefore when it’s gone, Hong Kong is no longer Hong Kong,” he said.

He said he was making a good living in Hong Kong and enjoying the low-tax environment there, but decided there is “something more important than the money.”

“I have a kid and it’s not only for myself but also for his future. I can’t stand living in that environment,” he said.

“It’s a very tough journey to go through. Seeing young people getting oppressed and intellectuals being jailed and detained. It’s definitely a saddening journey.”

Kennedy Chi-Pan Wong is a PhD candidate in sociology at the University of Southern California who has studied Hong Kong migration patterns.

Wong said his research showed many recent migrants were Hong Kong political prisoners’ relatives, friends or colleagues.

The U.S.-based Hong Kong Democracy Council says there are 1,163 political prisoners in Hong Kong as of September 2022.

“That actually creates a large pushing force, (as we call it) in migration studies, that really push people out of the country,” said Wong.

In addition to the political unrest, other factors have also come into play, such as Hong Kong and mainland China’s strict pandemic rules, said Wong.

He said the COVID rules that had inhibited mobility had created concern about doing business in Hong Kong, and the city’s future prosperity.

The influx looks set to accelerate, with more than 20,000 permits for study, permanent residency and work granted to Hong Kongers last year after Canada launched a new open work permit pathway last year for Hong Kong residents who are recent graduates of post-secondary institutions.

Some of those pathways only came into effect after the May 2021 census.

Wong agreed that the peak of newcomers from Hong Kong hasn’t arrived in Canada yet.

Meanwhile, the financial analyst who returned to Vancouver said he hoped the new arrivals would help capture some of Hong Kong’s previous spirit.

“(We) will connect with them and make sure the culture and values are preserved,” he said.

Source: Hong Kongers returning to Vancouver after years of population decline, census shows

ICYMI: Hongkongers are coming to Canada by the thousands. Some fear they won’t be able to stay

Of note. Strong case for flexibility:

It was through pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong in 2019 that the couple met and eventually started their life together.

Now, they fear they’ll be imprisoned if they return.

The two have been living in Ontario for more than a year, thanks to an open work permit program that Canada started last year, specifically for Hong Kong residents.

But with the program needing to be renewed in February, the pair say they’re worried there is no pathway for them and others in their situation to remain in Canada once their work permit expires in 2024.

They’re hoping the Canadian government will extend their stay.

“We are lucky we were not both arrested,” said the 28-year-old woman of their time in Hong Kong. The couple requested anonymity due to concerns about their safety should they have to return.

“We were marked by the Hong Kong police already,” she said, explaining the police “marked” their identifications when they were caught putting up pro-democracy posters once.

Legislators are among those joining the chorus now asking the federal government to extend and expand the program in question. According to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, about 12,800 people had been granted work permits through the program as of June 30.

The pressure comes as increasing numbers of Hongkongers are looking to get out of that city due to concerns about the government’s curtailing of civil liberties — with Canada being one of the favoured destinations.

Hong Kong residents have used the open-work permit to get out of the city as the local government enacts the will of the Chinese Communist Party by arresting pro-democracy activists.

Since the National Security Law was imposed by Beijing in 2020, hundreds of democracy activists have been arrested. Thousands of residents have left Hong Kong, heading to a variety of destinations, including the United Kingdom and Australia.

Figures provided by IRCC show a massive increase in the number of people applying to come to Canada via various streams, including study permits and work permits, since Beijing’s grip began tightening on Hong Kong.

From 2016 to 2021, applications ballooned from almost 6,000 to more than 29,000a year. As of June of this year, 18,000 applications had been received.

Canada’s work permit offered some Hong Kong residents a “lifeline.”

The couple that spoke to the Star applied for the program the day after they were married. Only one of them was eligible thanks to a job offer from an Ontario boutique. It was the only way they could both leave Hong Kong quickly and safely, they say, and they arrived in Canada in July 2021.

Other streams of the program aren’t an option for them now.

The open work permit requires the applicant to have graduated from post-secondary within five years of applying. The woman cannot apply for a stream that would give her a path to permanent residency because that five-year period has subsequently passed for her. Her husband did not attend a post-secondary institution.

“We are eligible for the work permit, but we are not eligible for the permanent residence,” the woman said, “this is kind of ironic.”

Advocates for Hong Kong democracy activists say Canada should extend current permits and expand the program so that more potential targets of the Hong Kong authorities can find refuge in Canada.

Katherine Leung of Hong Kong Watch says she is concerned there doesn’t seem to be a plan in place for when the program expires in February of next year.

“If it’s not extended, the scheme ends,” Leung said.

Meanwhile, there are still many hoping to get out of Hong Kong, and the program’s requirements are too narrow, particularly the requirement to have graduated within five years, critics say.

Though other countries have programs of their own meant to help Hongkongers, Leung said many residents of the city have no program they can access to leave.

“A lot of those facing charges for protest-related offences do not qualify for the scheme,” she said. “Often these are normal people who have contributed a lot to the pro-democracy movement.”

Last month, 19 MPs and senators signed a letter asking Ottawa to expand the open work permit. The letter also suggested adding a “human rights defender” category to the scheme. It urged giving those using the program access to the same mental health and career training as other refugees.

Toronto-area Liberal MP John McKay signed the letter.

“These folks could use a few visa breaks,” McKay said. “These people have been tremendous assets to the country.”

He said under the current environment it’s hard to imagine the Canadian government won’t act to help those seeking refuge through the program.

In a response to whether the program will be expanded, IRCC told the Star it is monitoring the situation.

Also monitoring the situation is the young couple who sacrificed the life they knew to fight the rise of authoritarianism in Hong Kong.

Relieved and grateful to have been granted a lifeline to Canada, they say they now only want to stay.

“We are not planning to go back anymore,” the woman said. “We don’t want to be in prison.”

Source: Hongkongers are coming to Canada by the thousands. Some fear they won’t be able to stay

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

Of note:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Disturbing and unacceptible:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The RCMP did not respond to a request for comment.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Fleeing Hongkongers boost overseas property markets from UK to Canada

Of note from the citizenship-by-investment industry:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Graph courtesy of Infogram.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Impact of expat voters hard to gauge, says Sevi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New paths to permanent residency

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Why would you just shut the door?’

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

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

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

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

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

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

Starting with the advocates:

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

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

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

And a note of caution from IRCC officials:

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

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

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