Joint Letter to Minister Fraser RE Visa for Hong Kong Activists

Dear Minister Fraser,

On behalf of the Toronto Association for Democracy in China (TADC), the Vancouver Society in Support of Democratic Movement (VSSDM) and the Movement for Democracy in China (Calgary), we are writing to express our deep concern over the challenges Hong Kong pro-democracy activists are experiencing with IRCC Hong Kong in their application for eTA and/or any other types of visa to come to Canada.


Specifically, we are referring to the former protesters who were arrested and convicted under charges that are not comparable under the Canadian Criminal Code. A number of these activists have applied to IRCC Hong Kong for either an open work permit or a study visa as a way to secure a new life in Canada.

Unfortunately, when an applicant answers truthfully that s/he has a “criminal record,” the AI screening process automatically denies the application. The subsequent appeal process is a frustrating and protracted waiting game. Meanwhile, the future of these young protesters is at risk.

We are seeking your immediate intervention to remedy the situation on humanitarian and compassionate grounds. We would also like to request a virtual meeting with you on this urgent matter.

The Toronto Star article of February 11, 2022 provides an in-depth and comprehensive exposé of the dire situation experienced by these applicants. Each of our organizations are currently working closely with immigration and refugee lawyers, including the renowned Barbara Jackman, on appeal. The basis for their appeal is that the so-called “offenses” should not render them inadmissible under the Canadian Criminal Code. (Ms. Jackman is currently representing the two applicants mentioned in the Star article.)

Our organizations are deeply concerned that these delays are putting the applicants in a vulnerable position. Given the escalating suppressive political climate in Hong Kong, these former protesters are in a constant state of fear for their safety. They never know when the police may come knocking with additional charges or that the Hong Kong Government may appeal on previously acquitted charges.

Minister Fraser, these pro-democracy activists are being denied a second chance in life because the AI screening system.

The system is intended to expedite the application process but has had a deleterious effect on the applicant. This process runs counter to the spirit and intent of the Hong Kong Pathway Program that was announced by your government on November 25, 2020 over “the serious concerns of the international community over the National Security Law imposed on Hong Kong by the Peoples’ Republic of China, and as we have in the past, Canada stands shoulder to shoulder with the people of Hong Kong.” [1]

Furthermore, the same CIMM document of November 25, 2020 clarifies that arrests or convictions outside of Canada for acts that are not considered to be an offense in Canada, such as participation in a peaceful protest, would generally not make someone inadmissible to Canada for asylum/immigration purposes. Accordingly, violation of face covering i.e. a COVID mask, or simply possession of a laser pointer during a protest are actions that should not be considered as reasons for inadmissibility.

Finally, the last report issued by the Special Committee on Canada China Relations in February 2021 outlines a list of twelve comprehensive recommendations unanimously adopted by the full Committee. Recommendations 8 and 9 spelled out clearly how best to expedite the asylum seekers’ claim and that no one should be disqualified from an asylum claim or other immigration routes because they have been charged with offenses associated with the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong. [2]

Based on the above, we are asking for your intervention and leadership on two fronts:

  • First, that the IRCC overseas office’s local screening process takes into consideration the letter and spirit of the Hong Kong Pathway Program; and
  • Second, that IRCC Hong Kong Officers develop special measures to expedite the review of cases that have been denied due to the administrative procedure.

Minister, we are sure that you will agree that justice delayed is justice denied. For these Hong Kong applicants seeking to have a second chance in life, there is great urgency to ensure that our Canadian safe refuge program is being provided to those who need it most.

We look forward to having a conversation with your designated staff to further discuss the specifics of the above-mentioned two cases that are pending. For the follow up, please contact Winnie Ng of TADC directly at

Thank you for your consideration and look forward to hearing from you.


Winnie Ng, PhD.
Chairperson, Toronto Association for Democracy in China
Chair Emeritus, Unifor National Chair in Social Justice and Democracy, X (Ryerson) University

Mabel Tung
Chairperson, Vancouver Society in Support of Democratic Movement (VSSDM)

Pun York Tong
Chairperson, Movement for Democracy in China (Calgary)