Rocky Canada-China relations worry some P.E.I. immigrant entrepreneurs

Some Island entrepreneurs with ties to China are worried the ongoing tension between the Canadian and Chinese governments could ultimately hurt business, according to the Chinese-Canadian Association of P.E.I.

Chinese-Canadian Association of P.E.I. says many immigrant entrepreneurs doing business in China

Paul Yin, left, and Frank Lau, both with the Chinese-Canadian Association of P.E.I., discuss the ongoing tensions between the two countries' governments. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

Some Island entrepreneurs with ties to China are worried the ongoing tension between the Canadian and Chinese governments could ultimately hurt business, according to the Chinese-Canadian Association of P.E.I. 

Paul Yin, the association's president and a business owner himself, says some immigrants who've moved to the Island through the Provincial Nominee Program have expressed concerns to him. 

"They are a little bit afraid about the two countries' situation, because it could influence their economic business," Yin told CBC through an interpreter. 

"They focus on business between China and Canada. So the relationship between the two countries influences the business."

Fear of trade, visa restrictions

Canada's relationship with China has been particularly strained since early December, when the RCMP arrested one of China's top business executives, Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou, at the request of U.S. justice officials. 

In the days that followed, two Canadians were detained in China. There's been a heightened state of political tension between Ottawa and Beijing ever since. 

​Yin points to the many Chinese immigrants on P.E.I., whose businesses involve trade with China, and could be affected if trade restrictions were imposed by either government. 

He said some other immigrant run businesses in China that employ Canadians depend on the Chinese government issuing them working visas. 

"They haven't felt any influence by the situation. But they're afraid that maybe that could change in the future," said Yin. 

P.E.I. government silent on strained relations 

The P.E.I. government declined to comment on the ongoing tensions and the potential impact on the province's relationship with China. 

Premier Wade MacLauchlan has long worked to grow that relationship, which the government said last fall had generated over $64 million for the Island economy, through trade, education and tourism. 

Paul Yin, president of the Chinese-Canadian Association of P.E.I., says he's heard from several immigrant entrepreneurs 'afraid' the strained relations between the two countries could impact their businesses. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

In fact, a delegation of P.E.I. government officials and businesses visited China in November — just a month before Meng's arrest — in an effort to boost trade. 

"I hope the risk will disappear," said Yin. "China and Canada have a long relationship, and a good relationship. So I think there just may be some misunderstanding between the two governments. But they'll clear it up."

CBC reached out to several other Island business owners and entrepreneurs with connections to China, but all either declined to comment or didn't return our calls. 

A representative of the P.E.I. Connectors program, which supports immigrant entrepreneurs, declined to comment as well, calling it a "federal matter."

More P.E.I. news 


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