Canada has announced a new programme that will make it easier for young Hong Kong residents to work, study and reside in the country, a move that is likely to further strain the relationship between Ottawa and Beijing.
In a news conference on Thursday, Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino said Hong Kong residents who completed post-secondary education within the last five years would be able to apply for an open work permit in Canada. Hong Kong residents already in Canada who meet certain criteria, including at least one year of work experience in the country, also will be able to apply for permanent residency as of next year, Mendicino said. “As daily life for Hong Kongers continues to unfold under a cloud of uncertainty, we have a unique opportunity to appeal to the hopes and aspirations of those who may well be casting their eyes abroad and looking at Canada as a place to live, work and settle as generations have before them,” he told reporters.
Senior Canadian government officials criticised China this week after four pro-democracy legislators were disqualified from the Hong Kong legislature, their removal came after China’s parliament adopted a resolution allowing the city government to expel legislators deemed to be supporting Hong Kong independence, colluding with foreign forces or threatening national security, without having to go through the courts. A pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong has been under sustained attack since Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law this year.
China has defended the legislators’ removal, saying they had committed “acts of betrayal”. “No country would turn a blind eye to acts of betrayal of the country by public officials,” Wang Wenbin, foreign ministry spokesperson, said at a regular news briefing in Beijing on Thursday. But Canada, as well as the United Kingdom, have said the legislators’ expulsion violates the Sino-British Joint Declaration, the “one country, two systems” deal that guarantees Hong Kong’s autonomy. “Actions such as these demonstrate a clear disregard for the basic law and are having the consequential effect of eroding human rights in Hong Kong. In this time of trial, Canada will stand in solidarity with the people of Hong Kong,” Mendicino said.
Canadian Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne also slammed China for it’s decision, saying on Wednesday that Canada was “deeply disappointed that China has chosen to break it’s international obligations”. The comments came amid already strained ties between Canada and China, the countries’ relationship has been tested since December 2018, when Canadian authorities arrested Meng Wanzhou, an executive with Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei, on an extradition requested by the United States. Two Canadians former diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor were arrested in China soon thereafter and accused of spying.
China has repeatedly accused Canada of meddling in it’s internal affairs after Canadian officials criticised Beijing’s human rights record in Hong Kong, as well as its treatment of the Uighur Muslim minority, last month, a Chinese government spokesman rejected a Canadian parliamentary committee report accusing Beijing of carrying out genocide against the Uighurs. “This is blatant interference in China’s internal affairs and reflects those Canadian individuals’ ignorance and prejudice,” Zhao Lijian said.