China’s coronavirus outbreak calls out for Canada’s help – and we should respond, in the spirit of Dr. Bethune

Silly piece, divorced from reality: For Weeks, China Has Ignored Outside Offers of Help on VirusFor Weeks, China Has Ignored Outside Offers of Help on VirusThe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been offering to send experts to China, but no invitation has come. The World Health Organization appears to be facing the same cold shoulder.

On Jan. 30, the World Health Organization declared the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak a public health emergency of international concern. But two days later, an even more surprising statement: Chinese Premier Li Keqiang asked the European Union to provide medical supplies to fight the epidemic unfolding in China.

This was highly unusual – top Chinese officials are not particularly known for their willingness to ask for international aid. But it points to the gravity and severity of the situation.

China is grappling with a severe public health challenge that is now outpacing the deadly SARS outbreak in 2003. As of today, more than 31,000 people in 28 countries and territories have been diagnosed with the new virus. The vast majority of those cases have emerged in China, where more than 600 people have died.

After 2019-nCoV was identified as originating in the city of Wuhan, the Chinese government took extraordinary measures to contain the outbreak. Wuhan and 13 surrounding cities have been locked down since Jan. 23 in a quarantine that affects more than 40 million people. It might be hard for Canadians to imagine this feat, but consider that Canada’s entire population is about 37 million.

However, the biggest challenge China faces is on the front lines. Doctors and nurses are racing against the clock and struggling to treat thousands of patients with dwindling supplies. Somehow, they are standing firm despite a shortage of hospital beds, staff, medicine and protective gear – even for themselves. Many doctors have worked throughout the day without drinking, eating or going to the bathroom simply to avoid replacing their protective suits. One doctor we know wore his son’s goggles to work for protection.

That the Chinese medical community is in mourning only heightens the anxiety. Dr. Li Wenliang, the Wuhan Central Hospital ophthalmologist who was among the first to identify the disease, passed away Friday.

Canada has confirmed five cases of its own – three in Ontario, two in British Columbia – but it has been acting vigorously and vigilantly, monitoring the situation, providing travel advice and evacuating Canadians in China. It’s remarkably brave of Ottawa to follow the WHO’s recommendation not to ban Chinese and other international travellers from China from entering the country. Furthermore, as acts of racism against the Chinese-Canadian community increase, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has made statements criticizing anti-Chinese sentiments and misinformation about the coronavirus. “This,” he said, “is not something Canadians will ever stand for.”

These are admirable steps. But it is our belief that Canadians will only be truly safe when China wins its battle. And history may offer a good example of what Canada can still do to achieve this goal.

In the late 1930s, Canadian physician Norman Bethune brought modern medicine to rural China. He was credited with saving thousands of Chinese civilians and soldiers during the Second Sino-Japanese War, and for this he is revered even today in China. His story confirms the most effective way to save lives: supplying Canadian medical treatment to China.

Doing so will require three courses of action. First, we would urge Ottawa to continue demonstrating respectful concern and vigorous support as China combats this virus during this critical period. Secondly, we would recommend the Canadian government play a vital role in facilitating the procurement of medical supplies for hospitals in affected regions. Trade-promotion agencies can help by adding a medical-supplies section to their information portals to connect qualified Canadian suppliers with Chinese buyers. Thirdly, we would encourage Canadian health-care professionals and specialists to work with Chinese and international experts in developing treatments and a vaccine.

Ottawa and Beijing have had their differences. A prominent Chinese executive is facing extradition to the U.S., while two Canadian citizens remain in jail in China and a crippling import ban hurts Canadian canola farmers. But Canadians remain highly respected and liked in China – in no small part because of the legacy of people like Dr. Bethune.

There is a Chinese saying: “Friends show their love in times of trouble, not in happiness.” We hope we can focus on our shared humanity and give Chinese medical workers and citizens a hand during this extremely difficult time – for their sake, in the name of selflessness, in the spirit of Dr. Bethune.

Kenny Zhang is a Fudan University alumnus, Jenny Li is a graduate of Hubei University, ChiChi Wang is an alumnus of the University of British Columbia and Zhenyu Cheng is a Wuhan University alumnus. All are residents of Canada.

Source: China’s coronavirus outbreak calls out for Canada’s help – and we should respond, in the spirit of Dr. Bethune

Hong Kong’s turmoil could be a Canadian crisis in the making

While there are merits to consider the implications of a return of many of Canada’s expatriates in Hong Kong, hard to believe the case for special initiatives or procedures given that Canadian citizens can enter and leave Canada freely.

Citizens already enjoy an “unfettered pathway for Hong Kong-resident Canadian citizens to expeditiously return to Canada.”

And suggesting that Canada “entertain the prospect of a Hong Kong-based refugee program to Canada” is incredibly silly, for the above reasons.

As to expatriate voting, we don’t have riding level data of expatriates (to my knowledge, Elections Canada does not release such data). Whether the expansion of voting rights to expatriates leads to a modest or dramatic increase from the 11,000 or so in 2015 who voted will only be known after this election.

Hong Kong’s months-long pro-democracy protests are continuing to roil, thousands of kilometres away. But that turmoil, far away as it may seem, has direct implications for Canadians residing both here and in Hong Kong: After all, according to a 2011 report from the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada, nearly 300,000 Canadian citizens reside in Hong Kong, making that city Canada’s largest overseas urban resident centre.

But that could change. Hong Kong’s leading role as an international financial centre has been undermined, as confirmed by the 10 per cent decline in the Hang Seng Index since the protests began in early June. The threat of potential further interruptions at one of the busiest airports in the world jeopardizes Hong Kong’s reputation as a global hub for international trade and business. And the city’s future economic prosperity is already in question, given that Beijing recently unveiled a plan to convert Shenzhen into a city modelled after Hong Kong, signalling that the Chinese government won’t make continued development a priority.

In its report, the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada found that nearly 80 per cent of Canadians in Hong Kong consider job opportunities their primary reason for living in Hong Kong. If these opportunities diminish – all while physical confrontations raise safety concerns for expatriates – it will invariably lead some of the thousands of Canadians who work and live in Hong Kong to consider returning to Canada.

How will Ottawa respond to this prospect? Increased Canadian consular assistance will be necessary, even though a mass evacuation from the city is unlikely to immediately occur.

Regardless of the size of the return migration to Canada, the potential effects on Canada’s housing market, health-care system, job market and overall social coherence represent a significant challenge. As well, regardless of where they live, Canadians living in Hong Kong – or anywhere overseas, for that matter – will have an impact in the coming federal election. Electoral outcomes in some key ridings will be affected this October not only by domestic Canadian voters, but potentially by all Canadian citizens living overseas, in the wake of 2018 government legislation and a January Supreme Court ruling that ex-pats can vote in elections no matter how long they’ve lived outside of Canada for the first time since 1993. Such overseas ballots will be counted in the electoral district where a foreign-residing Canadian voter last resided before leaving.

The provincial distribution of potential new voters could yield a decisive impact on a limited number of key ridings. The Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada’s study indicated that, as of 2011, as many as 1.4 million eligible voters lived abroad, of whom 80 per cent claimed Ontario and British Columbia as their provinces of last residency.

Can any party afford to lose a significant portion of these potential votes in the next election? Certainly not, especially since many will be in crucial Vancouver and Toronto ridings.

So, one key political question remains: What set of policies would both entice overseas-Canadian voter turnout and garner support for a given party? One primary measure, for Hong Kong Canadians specifically, would be a party’s promises around a focused foreign policy to help stabilize the political storm in Hong Kong. Another will be the party that best showcases that, once in power, it would be ready and willing to receive Canadians from Hong Kong if the turmoil causes a return to Canada to become imperative. Will these émigrés be smoothly transitioned in Canada’s job market, education system and health-care facilities? Will there be full support for old-age pensioners who were previously Canadian citizens but were living in Hong Kong?

In sum, Canadian public and private initiatives should recognize our citizens living overseas as valuable global assets. And so three ideas might be wise for an enterprising party, if it wishes to woo the Canadians living in Hong Kong: Support and strengthen Canadians’ economic activities in a stable and prosperous Hong Kong; provide an unfettered pathway for Hong Kong-resident Canadian citizens to expeditiously return to Canada; and entertain the prospect of a Hong Kong-based refugee program to Canada. These unilaterally-based Canadian immigration initiatives would make a loud statement around the world: that Canadian citizens are Canadian citizens, no matter where they live.

Source:    Hong Kong’s turmoil could be a Canadian crisis in the making Kenny Zhang and Don J. DeVoretz <img src=”×3712/550×0/filters:quality(80)/” alt=””>