CACN – Parliamentary Context - Nov 16, 2020
CACN Ministerial Appearance on the Situation in Hong Kong
Background and Logistics
On October 27, 2020, the Special Committee on Canada-China Relations (CACN) invited Minister Mendicino to appear on November 16, 2020, between 6:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. in view of its study on the situation in Hong Kong. During the meeting, the Minister will deliver a five minute opening statement and respond to questions relating to immigration and refugees from CACN members. The Minister will stay for the first hour, accompanied by IRCC officials and officials will stay for a second hour and continue with questions. Of note, the meeting will take place via Zoom videoconference and the Committee has experienced delays in past meetings as a result of technical issues.
A similar study on special immigration and refugee measures to provide a safe haven to the people of Hong Kong facing persecution under the new National Security Law may be undertaken at the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration (CIMM) at a later date, as a motion was moved and adopted on October 20, 2020, by MP Kwan, including a potential Ministerial Appearance.
In the first and second sessions of the current Parliament, CACN interviewed a variety of witnesses on the situation in Hong Kong. Overall, parties are aligned on a number of issues, including the safety of Canadians and the protection of those fleeing persecution. Recent discussions are focused on:
- Safety of Canadians in Hong Kong
- Non-recognition of dual citizenship by China
- Providing asylum to activists and those under the National Securities Law
- Overcoming potential barriers to leaving Hong Kong (current pandemic, documentation)
- Plans in place for a potential mass exodus
- Facilitating safe exit, including Consulate General’s position in helping asylum claimants
- Potential immigration lifeboat scheme and hostage diplomacy
- Protection of Uyghurs and Magnitsky sanctions
- Passport confiscations and China’s exit bans
- Increases in visa and immigration inquiries as a result of the National Securities Law
- China’s repercussions to Canada if refugee stream put in place
- Family reunification and categories
Stakeholders have generally been aligned in recommending that the Government of Canada should develop a refugee policy for the people of Hong Kong and their families. Some requested that protected person or permanent resident status be provided upon arrival. Barriers to leaving Hong Kong, such as the lack of citizenship, pandemic restrictions and advanced visa requirements, were also discussed.
A number of stakeholders equally recommended that a travel warning and/or advisory be issued for China and spoke to the great personal risk and potential grave consequences faced by Canadian citizens whether or not they currently reside in Hong Kong.
The Conservative party has been the most active on China and Hong Kong issues, both during House debates and in committee meetings. Members often speak of hostage diplomacy such as that of the two Michaels and setting up an immigration lifeboat scheme for Hong Kong, all while asking about the possible reciprocity of China. Members have presented a number of petitions calling on the government to acknowledge the persecution of Uyghurs in China and to implement Magnitsky-style sanctions. When speaking of the arrests of activists in Hong Kong by the Chinese Communist Party, members stress the importance of a clear plan to help Hong Kong's pro-democracy refugees and their families.
New Democrats have focused on the need to develop special new measures, either in the immigration stream or in the asylum stream, for the people of Hong Kong and share enthusiasm for extending a lifeboat to the people of Hong Kong who are facing persecution under the National Security Law.
The Bloc Quebecois have recently shared their concern regarding the security of 300,000 Canadians living in Hong Kong and the Chinese government’s non-recognition of dual citizenships. Members have also been vocal on limitations in Canada’s deployed efforts to help the exit of activists from Hong Kong and the need to better facilitate the exit of activists that may not have the means to leave for Canada.
Liberal members have discussed potential refugee policies for individuals fleeing persecution and raised concerns regarding barriers such as the lack of a valid passport or travel documents, preventing individuals from returning to Canada. The Minister has been consistent in his messaging on Hong Kong, with statements on standing shoulder to shoulder with its people, standing up for Canadians in Hong Kong, and grave concerns about the National Security Law. Recently, the Liberal Party indicated that immigration measures with respect to Hong Kong would be announced.
Interventions of Note (Paraphrased)
Recent CPC interventions:
- Senator Housakos (QP – 2020-11-04): The government talks a good game […] but what about pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong wishing to claim asylum? They can’t do so at our consulate in Hong Kong. […] With COVID, even those who are relatives of Canadian citizens can’t board a plane to Canada, and a simple asylum claim here in Canada won’t work either.
- MP Chong (CACN – 2020-11-02): What plans does the consulate have if Canadians involved in activism seek protection at the consulate and has anyone tried to seek asylum at the consulate? If someone did seek asylum what would you do?
- Consulate General of Canada in Hong Kong: No Canadians have sought protection or asylum to date. Door is always open to any Canadian that shows up.
- MP Paul-Hus (FAAE – 2020-10-19): When will the minister release a clear plan to help Hong Kong's pro-democracy refugees and the 300,000 Canadians living in Hong Kong?
- MP Genuis (CACN – 2020-08-13): I want to drill further now into the immigration and lifeboat questions. In the opposition, we've been calling on the government to have and to articulate a plan for helping Canadians who want to leave Hong Kong to be able to do so. I'm quite concerned [about] the possibility of “thousands of Michaels” being used against Canada […] if efforts are made by the Chinese government to prevent Canadian citizens, citizens of other countries, and human rights defenders who might want to claim asylum from being able to leave Hong Kong.
- MP Chiu (CIMM – 2020-06-17): What options will [be provided] to assist these Hong Kong residents in safely immigrating to Canada if they do not meet ordinary refugee status requirements?
- MP Chiu (CIMM – 2020-06-17): Between 2014 and 2018, only one case of asylum-seeking from Hong Kong was granted protection. Given the current situation in Hong Kong and the forward-looking nature of refugee protection, is there any plan to expedite refugee applications?
- MP Chiu (CIMM – 2020-06-17): Will Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada adopt a lifeboat policy for those who have been unjustly arrested and charged in Hong Kong for crimes that do not have a comparable criminal law here in Canada and who are wanting to seek asylum in Canada?
Recent LPC interventions:
- MP Yip (CACN – 2020-11-02): How many Canadians are in Hong Kong? 300,000?
- Consulate General of Canada in Hong Kong: That figure is from survey data 10 years ago. Number of Canadians renewing 20% higher than in the 5 years before the survey was done.
- MP Yip (CACN – 2020-11-02): Has there been an increase in visa and immigration inquiries?
- Consulate General of Canada in Hong Kong: A few small spikes about a year ago in fall 2019 when protests were at their peak and again when National Security Law was passed.
- MP Zann (CACN – 2020-08-11): I know the Government of Australia has announced new visa arrangements, allowing extensions with a pathway to permanent residency for Hong Kong passport holders who have a temporary skilled visa or a graduate visa. The Government of the United Kingdom has created a new immigration mechanism to allow about 2.9 million British nationals overseas from Hong Kong to apply for a visa of up to five years. After that they can apply for settled status and then naturalization, which sounds extremely good to me.
Recent BQ interventions:
- MP Bergeron (CACN – 2020-11-02): Because this committee will likely recommend to the government to implement a stream to find refuge, should we prepare for CCP repercussions? Are you preparing for an eventual possible exodus of those that may not have citizenship asking for asylum status?
- Consulate General of Canada in Hong Kong: Missions do not accept asylum applications from those in their own territory. Claims must be made in a third country. People presenting themselves at the door to make a claim (none so far) would be provided with info on how the system works but not in a position to accept a claim. Our immigration processing section (60 people) is taking on work from other areas/countries unable to do so, and are flexible to do other things.
Recent NDP interventions:
- MP Harris (CACN – 2020-11-02): 300k Canadians that we talk about, are we talking about those that have gone to China to live or long-term residents that hold dual citizenship?
- Consulate General of Canada in Hong Kong: Findings of the survey are that vast majority (83%) are dual citizens. Residents in Hong Kong and residents of Canada.
- MP Harris (CACN – 2020-11-02): Heard that Chinese ambassador use “Canadian passport holder” seems ominous as they may not recognize their Canadian citizenship. He urged that “violent criminals” such as Tony Chung (arrested due to social media) should not be admitted as refugees.
- MP Harris (CACN – 2020-11-02): If someone like Tony Chung came to the consulate, are there any mechanisms available to assist or provide travel documents to get him to a place to seek asylum?
- Consulate General of Canada in Hong Kong: We do not have the power to intervene.
- MP Kwan (CIMM – 2020-10-14): [We should] extend a lifeboat to the people of Hong Kong who are facing persecution under the new national security law.
- MP Harris (CACN – 2020-10-13): […] expanding family reunification categories so that they're not only for spouses but also for parents and children and other relatives; extending [and offering more] visas for students and those already in Canada; ensuring that there's continued visa-free admission from Hong Kong residents; and facilitating safe exit. Have I got the complete picture here?
- Avvy Yao-Yao Go: I'm also suggesting that we grant them permanent resident status.
- MP Harris (CACN – 2020-10-13): We don't normally accept someone as refugee if they are already in Canada, unless they're already declared an international refugee. Is there anything on that score that you would like to comment on?
- Avvy Yao-Yao Go: Yes, the UNHCR has an office in Hong Kong, but, unfortunately, […] people will have to go there first to make a claim through UNHCR [in a third country] before they are resettled in Canada […] we should provide a more direct route through the consulate for the people in Hong Kong to try to help them find a way out.
Report a problem or mistake on this page
- Date modified: