Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, interviewed on dozens of asylum applications from protesters from Hong Kong to Canada, hailed the rich contribution of immigrants from this former British colony to this country, but declined to say whether Ottawa would provide refuge to the applicants.
Freeland told media on Monday that while she cannot comment on specific refugee claims, which she says should be judged “very carefully and very carefully,” Canadians agree that migrants from Hong Kong have been a boon for this country.
“Canada has benefited enormously from the immigration of people from Hong Kong to Canada. They make a huge contribution to our society and I think we are all very happy that so many people from Hong Kong have chosen to make their homes and their lives here, “said Freeland.
As the Globe and Mail first reported on Monday, 46 Hong Kong citizens – many of whom participated in the massive protests that started last year as China tightened its grip on the Asian city – demand the asylum in Canada, citing harassment and brutality on the part of the population. and fear of unfair prosecution.
This may be just the start of a larger wave of asylum seekers, experts say.
Guy Saint-Jacques, former Canadian diplomat, and Richard Kurland, immigration lawyer and immigration policy analyst with extensive experience in dealing with Asian migration, both say that these cases are likely the start of an outbreak asylum from Hong Kong as a political turmoil there continues.
The 46 potential refugees from Hong Kong applied for asylum between January 1, 2019 and March 31, 2020. The applications, all pending, were received at airports, the offices of the Border Security Agency of Canada and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. (IRCC) across the country. Many of those seeking asylum in Canada face charges in Hong Kong related to the protests.
Wenran Jiang, an adjunct professor at the School of Public Policy and Global Affairs at the University of British Columbia, said that Canada should proceed with caution. “If Ottawa officially encourages and offers political asylum to protesters in Hong Kong, even [if] some of them have clearly broken the law by being violent, Beijing is likely to interpret such a decision as an interference in China’s internal affairs, leading to adding more cold to an already cold bilateral relationship. ”
Canada’s relations with China deteriorated considerably in late 2018 after Ottawa arrested a Chinese high-tech leader following an extradition request to the United States and Beijing, in what was widely viewed as retaliation, locked up two Canadians – former diplomat Michael Kovrig and entrepreneur Michael Spavor.
Conservative MP Garnett Genuis, who sits on the Canada-China committee in the House of Commons, said there were good reasons to grant asylum to pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong. He said he hoped Canada would not refuse these applicants for fear of offending China.
“The adjudication of asylum claims is an independent process and determination should certainly not be influenced by politics or fears of political reprisals,” he said. “We should absolutely accept asylum claims on their merits and… based on what I have heard about these claims, there are strong arguments in favor of their merits given the human rights violations man we know in Hong Kong. “
Saint-Jacques, a former Canadian ambassador to China, agrees that Beijing would be unhappy if Canada granted asylum to defenders of democracy in Hong Kong, but also said that they deserve refuge.
“Given what is happening in Hong Kong and the fact that China is increasingly infringing on the rights of Hong Kong citizens…. clearly these people have a legitimate [reason] think that their rights will not be respected, “he said.
Saint-Jacques said he expects a large influx of people from Hong Kong in the coming months, including many of the 300,000 residents of the Asian city who hold Canadian passports.
“I think these people would make a good contribution [to Canada] but the big dilemma for the federal government is that it is happening at a time when we need the goodwill of China to provide the medical equipment we desperately need, “he said.
Kurland said he thinks the 46 asylum claims could be the start of an increase in the number of asylum seekers from Hong Kong.
“There can be legs to it,” he said. “Planning for a sudden increase in the number of asylum applications in Hong Kong is prudent. “
Today, up to 500,000 Canadians of Hong Kong descent live in Canada, according to Hong Kong Watch.
With a report from Reuters
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