British Columbia

Hong Kong residents eye immigrating to Canada as new security law comes into effect

As China's new national security law for Hong Kong brings new restrictions to the semi-autonomous region, some Hong Kong residents are looking to emigrate — and Canada could be a popular option.

A Richmond, B.C., immigration consultant says he's receiving 'gargantuan' interest from those in Hong Kong

An anti-national security law protester, right, holds a Hong Kong independence flag as he marches on the anniversary of Hong Kong's handover to China from Britain in Hong Kong, on July 1. (Tyrone Si/Reuters)

As China's new national security law for Hong Kong brings new restrictions to the semi-autonomous region, some Hong Kong residents are looking to emigrate — and Canada could be a popular option. 

The security law came into effect on July 1, after months of protests and violent clashes between pro-democracy organizers and police.

It gives China more authority over the administration of Hong Kong, and among other things, the law makes secessionist, subversive or terrorist activities illegal and bans foreign intervention into the regions' affairs. 

Critics have called the law draconian and have expressed concern about its sweeping broadness and the severity of the stipulated punishment which ranges from three years up to life in prison. 

Some in Hong Kong are looking to emigrate as a result. 

There have been historic waves of emigration out of Hong Kong before, notably after the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests and the 1997 handover of Hong Kong from the U.K. to China.

Canada, and Vancouver in particular, was a popular destination. 

Ken Tin Lok Wong, a registered immigration consultant with a Richmond, B.C., law firm, says while there's always been interest and an influx of immigrants from Hong Kong, things have escalated lately.

"We are receiving a gargantuan amount of clients wanting to immigrate to Canada," Wong told host Gloria Macarenko on CBC's On The Coast. 

Wong said Canada's strong connections to Hong Kong — nearly 300,000 ex-pat Canadians live in Hong Kong and Canada has the second largest Hong Kong diaspora after the U.S. — and its familiarity as an English-speaking Commonwealth country with good education systems and economic opportunity make it a popular choice for Hong Kong residents. 

Those coming from Hong Kong would likely apply under the express entry or provincial-level skills immigration programs, where age, education, language proficiency and previous Canadian work experience would be important considerations. 

Other countries like Australia and the United Kingdom have been setting up Hong Kong-specific immigration policies that could allow residents an easier path to residency and citizenship — a move that has earned China's ire.

Beijing says the move is a breach of a British pledge and promised unspecified 'corresponding measures.' 2:47

Wong says he doesn't foresee a similar stream for Hong Kong residents in Canada — at least, not yet. 

"[Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada] does not want to give off the impression that we're assisting, or giving extra leeway, to those who are from Hong Kong," he said. 

"But then, things can change quickly ... the situation over in Hong Kong is changing almost every day."

With files from On The Coast

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