We also take this opportunity to thank you for the impeccable timing of your announcement. To have this package released on the day after the mass resignation of 15 Hong Kong pro-democracy lawmakers triggered by the disqualification of their 4 legislative colleagues, the day dubbed by many Hong Kongers as the “darkest day”, has been a most concrete act of international support and solidarity. The Canadian announcement has served as a welcoming news and morale booster for the Hong Kong activists and supporters here in Canada.
However, Minister, while the new initiatives will broaden the pathways for selected groups of Hong Kong residents to immigrate to Canada, the announcement has fallen short of responding to the worsening climate of white terror and constant surveillance experienced by many pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong.
We are disappointed with the glaring absence of any humanitarian measures in your announcement that will assist those who are most at risk with a safe and secure process to leave Hong Kong for Canada, a majority of them do not qualify under the new immigration measure.
The new open work permit for young people is only being offered to a fairly exclusive group of activists, i.e., recent university graduates. The restrictive criteria will unfortunately exclude the non-university educated protestors including high school student leaders who are currently being targeted and arrested by the Hong Kong police. By failing to recognize the diverse age groups as well as educational and occupational backgrounds of the protestors, the Canadian initiative will inadvertently leave many high-risk protestors in an even more precarious and vulnerable situation. It also sends a wrong message that Canada’s commitment to pro-democracy activists is limited to only those who will bring immediate economic benefits to our country.
There are also many Hong Kong residents, including young students, who are already in Canada on a student visa. They, along with the dozens of asylum seekers, should be granted permanent resident status under a special program, similar to the one in place for Chinese nationals after the Tiananmen Square Massacre in 1989.
Finally, for protestors who are currently stranded in a third country due to the travel ban, we would like to see whether private refugee sponsorship applications submitted by local community groups here can be expedited to facilitate the immediate arrival of the asylum seekers as soon as the travel ban is lifted.
As Toronto’s longstanding pro-democracy community organization founded in support of the student protests in Beijing in 1989, TADC is here to offer our assistance to help bring the activists in Hong Kong and elsewhere to resettle in Canada. With our deep connections with pro-democracy groups in Hong Kong, we can also be in a position to facilitate the humanitarian application process via more creative means.
We are prepared to mobilize our community in organizing private sponsorship applications. TADC has already received offer from a private developer to provide free accommodation as well as monetary support from many ordinary folks to Hong Kong refugees, signaling broad-based support for this cause from Canadians in general.
TADC will also work with the Chinese & Southeast Asian Legal Clinic to provide legal support and assistance where appropriate to help these activists navigate the immigration system.
We look forward to having further discussion with you and your team on developing a comprehensive humanitarian program that will be most beneficial and impactful for the Hong Kong pro-democracy asylum seekers.