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Canada offers to take in more Hong Kongers over security crackdown

Pro-democracy lawmakers join hands during a press conference in Hong Kong on November 11, 2020 when they said they would all resign, after China gave the city the power to disqualify politicians deemed a threat to national security - Anthony WALLACE / ©AFP
Pro-democracy lawmakers join hands during a press conference in Hong Kong on November 11, 2020 when they said they would all resign, after China gave the city the power to disqualify politicians deemed a threat to national security - Anthony WALLACE / ©AFP

(AFP)

Canada’s immigration minister announced Thursday new pathways for young Hong Kongers to come to study and work in the country — and those already there, to stay — in response to China’s national security crackdown.

“Canada remains deeply concerned about China’s passage of the new national security law,” Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino told a news conference.

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“We have unequivocally stated that this legislation and the unilateral powers within it are in direct conflict with China’s international obligations and undermine the one country, two systems framework,” he said.

The ousting of four pro-democracy lawmakers from Hong Kong’s legislature on Wednesday, he added, “demonstrate a clear disregard for the basic law, and are having the consequential effect of eroding human rights in Hong Kong.”

He said Ottawa has already seen an uptick this year in applications for study permits from Hong Kong, and is looking to further boost its intake by expediting applications.

A new initiative will also allow recent university or college graduates to apply for a three-year open work permit, and once they obtain at least one year of work experience in Canada they may seek permanent residency as well as sponsor family members to join them.

Meanwhile, asylum seekers whose bids were rejected will now be allowed to request a review of the possible risks of harm of sending them back to Hong Kong.

Canada does not deport persons who can demonstrate they face likely harm in their country of origin.

According to government documents, Hong Kong residents at risk of persecution due to a worsening human rights situation may be eligible for resettlement in Canada.

“Taking part in peaceful protests is not considered an offence in Canada,” according to the backgrounder, and so such charges “are not grounds for inadmissibility.”

Ottawa in response to the Chinese government’s introduction in June of the national security law in Hong Kong has already banned exports of “sensitive goods” and suspended its extradition treaty with Hong Kong, while cautioning Canadians about travel to the island.

There are currently an estimated 300,000 Canadians living in Hong Kong, which is one of the largest Canadian communities abroad. 

Canada-China relations, however, have plunged into crisis over the December 2018 arrest of a Huawei executive on a US warrant, and days later China’s detention of two Canadians, former diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor, which was seen in the West as retaliation.

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