There are growing fears that as Beijing continues its crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, Canadians and activists will be denied permission to leave the country.
More than 300,000 Canadians of Hong Kong descent are currently living in China. In addition to the dual nationals, there are also thousands of pro-democracy protesters, many of whom have family connections to Canadians, that may be eligible for asylum given their political situation.
For months Hong Kong has seen massive demonstrations from protesters who fear the end of the “one country, two systems” special status granted to Hong Kong. Last year activists took to the streets to protest against a security law proposed by Beijing. That law, if enacted, would have seen Hong Kong residents extradited to China for criminal prosecution but this was later abandoned. Currently, Beijing is trying to implement new security laws that would curtail the city’s civil liberties.
Avvy Go, the director of the Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic is calling on the Canadian federal government to implement immigration and asylum measures to help Hong Kong residents get out before it’s too late. They are:
- Expediting family sponsorship applications by Canadians with spouses and parents in Hong Kong.
- Expanding family-reunification sponsorship programs beyond parents and spouses.
- Issuing more temporary-resident permits, work visas, and student visas.
- Granting refugee status to democracy advocates, and offering them stepped-up resettlement options.
The time to act is now. As China continues to crack down on the democracy movement in Hong Kong, it may soon find ways to prohibit Hong Kong activists from leaving that city, period, — Avvy Go
Canada, along with the United States, Britain, and Australia, have condemned Beijing’s imposition of a new national security law that they say violates Hong Kong’s freedom from Chinese communist interference.
There are some indications that members of the Canadian government are receptive to taking additional measures to assist Hong Kong residents, although no formal legislation has been introduced.
“These are our people. And as parliamentarians dedicated to promoting and protecting democracy, we cannot stand by silently. I endorse all of the actions,” said Independent Sen. Marilou McPhedran.