Toronto, Canada – Yeung says his native Hong Kong is uncertain.
That’s why the 22-year-old, who recently completed a computer science degree at the University of Toronto and now works at a local health-tech company, hopes to make Canada his permanent home.
With continuing political unrest and repression On returning dissent, Yeung – who requested to be identified only by his last name due to fears of retaliation – said he plans to apply for permanent residence in Canada as soon as a new fast-track program becomes available.
“Applying for permanent residence is actually my first priority right now,” he told Al Jazeera.
The Canadian government in November ad new immigration measures to encourage Hong Kong people to come to Canada to study and work, and to widen the path to permanent residence for those already in the country.
Canada’s “open” work permits for Hong Kong people, which will allow residents to gain work experience in Canada, were officially made available February 8.
But the new route to permanent residence won’t be introduced until later this year, according to the Canadian government, raising concerns from some immigration advocates who say more easily accessible programs are needed for people in Hong Kong, in especially those seeking asylum.
Suppression of dissent
China imposed a national security law in Hong Kong last year, saying it was necessary to prevent outside interference and threats of separatism in the semi-autonomous territory.
But the move drew widespread criticism, and rights groups said it was part of an effort to quell protests calling for more freedoms for Hong Kong.
A spokesperson for the Canadian Department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship told Al Jazeera that Ottawa is concerned about the national security law and supports the right of Hong Kong people to protest peacefully.
“The ties between Canada and Hong Kong run deep. With many young Hong Kong residents looking abroad, we want them to choose Canada, ”said Alexander Cohen in an email.
“That is why we have put a lot of effort into helping Hong Kong people to come to Canada.”
But Alex Ra-Lee of Alliance Canada Hong Kong (ACHK), an advocacy group, said that “the new political [in Canada], although very generous to those with a university education, do not do much in the way of humanitarian support for Hong Kong people fleeing the persecution ”.
To be considered for Canada’s permanent residency program, a Hong Kong resident must have at least one year of Canadian work experience and meet language and academic requirements, or have graduated from a recognized post-secondary school in Canada. Canada.
Meanwhile, people living in Hong Kong are currently unable to travel to Canada due to coronavirus travel restrictions.
These rules can only be circumvented if the candidate has a job offer in Canada or meets a “travel exemption,” which can include foreign workers supporting the Canadian economy in vital sectors such as health care. International students returning to Canadian campuses or family members attempting to “locate relatives in Canada” may also be exempt.
Ra-Lee said Canada gave little support to asylum seekers trying to leave Hong Kong, which he said had become a difficult process, and urged the government to process claims for asylum. asylum in Hong Kong instead of waiting for someone to arrive at the border.
“Many Hong Kong people have their passports and other travel documents seized by Chinese authorities, making it perilous for them to try to leave Hong Kong,” he said.
Tensions with China
Canada is not the only country to offer Hong Kong people more immigration options in recent months.
At the end of January, Britain announced a new visa this would allow Hong Kong people to live and work in the country and offer them a path to citizenship. The UK government said last month that about 7000 Hong Kongers had accepted the offer.
Last week, the UK also said it had allocated £ 43m ($ 59m) to help Hong Kong residents resettle in the country.
Immigration programs come against a backdrop of heightened tensions between Western countries, including Canada and the UK, and China.
Last month, several countries have imposed sanctions on Chinese officials on the country’s treatment of its Uyghur Muslim minority in the western province of Xinjiang. The Canadian government and its allies have also spoken out against the detention of two Canadians in China, where they face charges of espionage.
Canada says it does not yet have data on the number of people who have applied for work and study permits.
Meanwhile, the government reported that on average around 2,500 study permits and 900 work permits have been issued to applicants from Hong Kong each year over the past five years.
Ra-Lee said he believes 100,000 to 200,000 people would apply for the new study permits in Canada because the country “has always been an attractive option for Hong Kong students.” He added, however, that Ottawa should also consider offering support to newcomers to settle in the country.
In the meantime, many people – including Yeung – are waiting. “There is no hope of a cure [in Hong Kong]He told Al Jazeera.