Won’t Refuse Young HKers for Protests or Charged under NSL: Cdn Consul General on Canada’s Lifeboat Scheme; Concern NSL’s Detrimental Effect on HK’s Rule of Law
Originally posted on 11 Feb
Since the enactment of the Hong Kong National Security Law (NSL), the Canadian Government announced last November the Lifeboat Scheme to enable Hongkongers to move to Canada. The first round of work via applications began taking applications this Monday (8 Feb), in that Hong Kong residents who received a university degree or college diploma from a Canadian institution within the past 5 years or an equivalent qualification via an overseas certificate would be eligible to apply for a work visa up to 3 years, with no ceiling on the age of the applicants.
Three days after the launch of the Scheme, Canadian Consul General in Hong Kong and Macau Jeff Nankivell was interviewed exclusively by Stand News. He pointed out that the Lifeboat Scheme set a relatively lower threshold than existing immigration policies, hoping to provide young Hongkongers a “more convenience, easier” means to live and work in Canada.
Nankivell also stressed that if young Hongkongers had been charged for their participation in political activities, they would not lose out on their chance to emigrate to Canada, “We don’t want the young people who had been charged for participating in protests or for allegedly violating the National Security Law to mistaken that they would be disqualified from applying.”
“In Canada, political activity is not a crime.”
Having lived in Hong Kong for 4.5 years, Nankivell told reporters, “I have deep feelings for Hong Kong,” and that he felt that he was not the only Canadian with great passion for the city. “Many Canadians share this affection. In Canada, anything that happens in Hong Kong is big news.”
Canada had long been a choice for Hongkongers for studies and emigration. Nankivell shared that the Canadian Government’s target number of immigrants for the year was 400,000, approximately 1% of the current national population. He laughed that this was an “aggressive” target, that Canada is “one of the few countries that actively recruits such a large number of immigrants.”
Besides the first round of work visa applications that it had announced recently, the Canadian government had also previously foretold that there would be forthcoming announcements of two other means to permanent residence this year, including one for those Hong Kong residents who had at least one year’s work experience in Canada and fulfilled the language and education standards; another means would be for Hong Kong residents who graduated from Canadian tertiary institutions, with a path that would allow them to apply directly to receive permanent residence.
With a low threshold for application, it was certainly good news to young people.
Nankivell pointed out that Hongkongers can apply for the work visa via an online system, but it was still difficult at this point to estimate the number of applications, “One thing we could be sure is that many young people are interested in this scheme.”
Canadian Minister of Immigration, Marco Mendicino, previously said publicly during a parliamentary hearing last November that “no one would have their refugee application or other Canadian immigration application banned for being charged with violating the National Security Law or having been convicted for participating in peaceful protest.” As for how the Canadian government would define “peaceful protest”, would charges of unlawful assembly and rioting be excluded?
“Political activity is not a crime in Canada.”
Nankivell reiterated, “We don’t want the young people who had been charged with participating in protests or violating the National Security Law to mistaken that they would be disqualified from applying.”
He promised to young Hongkongers that Canada had a well-established vetting system and will carefully review each Lifeboat Scheme application to confirm whether the applicant has committed a crime for political reasons or some other criminal offense.
- No One Seeking Political Asylum from Cdn Consulate Generate Yet -
New Hong Kong Cultural Club, a group that assists Hongkongers in exile in Canada, pointed out last month that since the end of last year, Canada had approved refugee status for 14 asylum seekers from Hong Kong (see HKCT’s previous report here: https://www.facebook.com/hkcolumn/posts/2851808418369872). As for the number of Hongkongers in exile in Canada, Nankivell did not respond directly, but claimed that such matters were not part of the responsibility for the Consulate in Hong Kong and Macau. He also said that thus far, no one has visited the Consulate to seek any sort of asylum.
- Concerned that NSL Destroys HK’s Rule of Law -
Every time the NSL is brought up, Nankivell shows concern.
“(The NSL) clearly violates the Sino-British Joint Declaration, undermines One Country, Two Systems, is inconsistent with the Basic Law, and also counters internationally protected Hong Kong human rights.”
In the international arena, Canada has repeatedly spoken out against the NSL, first issuing a joint statement with the U.S. and U.K. condemning Beijing for pushing through the NSL in Hong Kong, then issuing a statement as a member of the G7, announcing the suspension of the Canada-Hong Kong extradition agreement, and banning the export of sensitive military goods to Hong Kong.
On the other hand, the Consulate also reminded Canadians in Hong Kong about the NSL through its website and social media.
“As soon as the NSL came into effect, we immediately updated our travel advisory to remind our nationals that mainland national security agencies will be able to legally carry out their duties in Hong Kong without local court or legal oversight, and that nationals are at risk of extradition to the mainland for trial.”
To Nankivell, however, there had been a fundamental change to both the Hong Kong judicial system and court trials.
- Fundamental Change to the Courts -
One of the most high-profile NSL cases was that the founder of Next Digital, Jimmy Lai, on charges of colluding with a foreign country or foreign forces to endanger national security." This past Tuesday (9 Feb), the Court of Final Appeal handed down the verdict on his bail appeal case, and among the long lines of people outside the courtroom that morning, there were also European Union diplomats and Canadian consulate staff waiting to enter the courtroom to observe the case.
Nankivell said that the consulate staff had attended the case as an observer in the hope of following the progress and development of the trial, but the trial was still at an early stage, making it far too early to make further interpretations of the NSL, but the Consulate would continue to closely monitor the developments.