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Canada 'must do more' to help people in Hong Kong amid draconian law: Advocacy Group

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Toronto | April 12, 2021 5:13:44 AM IST
Amid the crackdown on dissent in Hong Kong, an advocacy group has said that while Canada has unveiled new work, study and residency permit programmes for Hong Kongers but more support is definitely needed.

Al Jazeera further reported that the Canadian government in November last year announced new immigration measures to entice Hong Kong people to come to Canada to study and work, and broadening the pathway to permanent residency for those already in the country.

Canada's "open" work permits for Hong Kong people, which will allow residents to get job experience in Canada, were officially made available on February 8.

But the new pathway to permanent residency will only be introduced later this year, the Canadian government said, prompting concerns from an advocacy group who says that more easily accessible programmes are needed for people from Hong Kong, especially those seeking asylum.

A spokesman for Canada's immigration, refugees and citizenship department told Al Jazeera that Ottawa is concerned about the draconian national security law imposed by Beijing and reiterated its support to the right of Hong Kong people to protest peacefully.

"The ties that bind Canada and Hong Kong run deep. With many young Hong Kong residents casting their eyes abroad, we want them to choose Canada," Press Secretary to the Minister of Immigration, Refugees & Citizenship, Alexander Cohen said in an email.

"That's why we've made extensive efforts to help Hong Kongers come to Canada."

But Alex Ra-Lee of Alliance Canada Hong Kong (ACHK), an advocacy group, said: "the new policies [in Canada], while quite generous for those with a university education, do little in the way of humanitarian support for Hong Kongers fleeing persecution".

Al Jazeera further reported that in order to be considered for Canada's permanent residency programme, a Hong Kong resident needs to have a minimum of one year of work experience in Canada and meet language and education requirements, or have graduated from a recognised post-secondary school in Canada.

Meanwhile, people living in Hong Kong currently cannot travel to Canada due to coronavirus travel restrictions.

Ra-Lee said Canada provides little support for asylum seekers trying to leave Hong Kong, which he explained has become a difficult process, and urged the government to process asylum applications in Hong Kong as opposed to waiting for someone to arrive at the border.

"Many Hong Kongers are having their passports and other travel documents seized by Chinese authorities, which makes it perilous for them to try and leave Hong Kong," he said.

Ra-Lee said he thinks 100,000 to 200,000 people would apply for the new study permits in Canada because the country "has always been an attractive option for students from Hong Kong". He added, however, that Ottawa must also think about providing support for newcomers to settle in the country.

China imposed the draconian National Security Law in Hong Kong last year. The law criminalises secession, subversion, and collusion with foreign forces and carries with it strict prison terms. It came into effect from July 1. Since then, a number of former pro-democracy lawmakers have been arrested.

The UK government has launched a 43 million pound (USD 59.6 million) package to support British National (Overseas) families that settle in the country, funding local councils nationwide to help the new arrivals from Hong Kong with housing, education and employment who are escaping the region since China imposed the draconian security law.

According to South China Morning Post (SCMP), the scheme, announced on Thursday, comes after UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson spoke to four Hong Kong families that moved to the country on a special visa for those with BN(O) status last month.

The visa's launch in January sparked a diplomatic row, with China saying it would stop recognising BN(O) passports as travel and identification documents. Beijing also accused Britain of "obstinately and repeatedly hyping up the BN(O) passport issue to interfere in Hong Kong affairs and China's internal affairs". (ANI)

 
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