The Canadian government is set to announce measures to help Hong Kong residents come to Canada.
However, a government official speaking on background said the measures will not be new asylum streams or a lifeboat scheme to help evacuate large numbers of people fleeing a Chinese crackdown.
The news comes as the remaining pro-democracy lawmakers in the former British colony prepare to resign en masse over new crackdowns that they say sound the “death knell” for democracy.
Beijing has repeatedly shown over the last year that it has no intention of observing the legally binding treaty that transferred control of Hong Kong to China from the U.K. in 1997. Under that agreement, Hong Kong residents were to retain their civil rights, including freedom of expression and democracy.
Yet Western countries including Canada have done little to punish China for breaking the treaty.
While the Canadian government has issued condemnation after condemnation, it has repeatedly refused to impose sanctions on Chinese officials for the imposition of what they bill as a national security law granting broad powers to stifle opposition voices and criminalize dissent, even from abroad.
Canada has instead frozen its extradition treaty with Hong Kong and stopped allowing the export of sensitive technologies to the region, noting the new law effectively means such extradition or export requests must be treated as if they were coming from the Chinese regime itself.
Members of Parliament on the special Canada-China relations committee have heard repeated testimony from witnesses on the need to speed up asylum processing to get activists out of Hong Kong, and the need for Canada to take strong action against China for breaking a binding international treaty.
The committee has also had testimony about the challenges facing many in Hong Kong who are looking to flee the crackdown there given many countries have imposed strict immigration restrictions in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.
Canada, for example, has banned foreign nationals entering on non-essential business.
In order to claim asylum, a person needs to be able to get to the country where they are claiming that.
Financial costs have also been repeatedly cited as a steep barrier for Hong Kongers who are not wealthy.
There are 300,000 Canadian passport holders living in Hong Kong.
Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino is expected to announce full details on the measures at noon ET.
Mendicino said in the House of Commons last month that the Liberals have imposed sanctions on China over Hong Kong, which does not appear to be entirely accurate.
According to Global Affairs Canada, “Canadian sanctions are imposed under the United Nations Act (UNA), the Special Economic Measures Act (SEMA) or the Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act” and China is not on the government’s list of sanctioned countries under those laws.
As well, while Global Affairs Canada describes export controls such as those banning the transfer of military technology to Hong Kong as “related measures” but sanctions themselves.
In fact, the government’s list of countries subject to export and import restrictions under sanctions legislation does not include either China or Hong Kong, nor does the section on financial prohibitions.
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