Calls for an expanded visa program . . .
On Monday, a group of Canadian parliamentarians and civil society organizations urged Ottawa to expand the number of visas for individuals wanting to leave Hong Kong. The request was a response to China’s announcement of a new national security law that will criminalize much of the protest activity that has come to define daily life in the city. The current wave of protests began in June 2019 in opposition to a controversial extradition bill. Since then, observers in Canada have been anticipating the re-migration of some of Hong Kong’s estimated 300,000 Canadian passport holders, along with an increase in immigration applications by their non-citizen family members and others with no personal connections to Canada.
UK leads by example . . .
On Wednesday, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that if China proceeds with the national security law, the UK will allow Hong Kong’s British National Overseas (BNO) passport holders to extend their visa-free access from six to 12 months, with the possibility of renewal and employment, and a path to citizenship. About 350,000 Hong Kong residents have this status, with another 2.5 million eligible to apply. Prime Minister Johnson said, “it is precisely because we welcome China as a leading member of the world community that we expect it to abide by international agreements,” a reference to the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration that the “one country, two systems” framework would persist until 2047. UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab urged its Five Eyes allies – Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the U.S. – to also welcome more Hongkongers.
The clock may be ticking . . .
Avvy Go, Director of the Toronto-based Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic, warned that the Chinese government could refuse to recognize dual Hong Kong-Canada citizenship and deny those people exit visas. She urged Ottawa to expedite the issuance of visas to Hongkongers who qualify for temporary study and work visas, including those who have been charged with crimes related to their pro-democracy activities in Hong Kong.
- The Globe and Mail: Ottawa urged to open its doors to people fleeing Hong Kong
- Global News: China could keep dual citizenship Canadians from leaving Hong Kong amid protests: Lawyer
- South China Morning Post: For Hongkongers fearing for their way of life, Britain will provide an alternative