Hong Kong residents are flocking to Canada in historic numbers as Ottawa welcomes residents fleeing China’s anti-democracy campaign.
The communist superpower has suppressed opposition in Hong Kong by banning media, requiring all candidates for public office to take a loyalty test, and demolishing monuments commemorating the 1989 Tiananmen Square demonstrations.
Unions and other non-governmental groups have been shut down. Pro-democracy activists who were unable to run or hide were jailed under severe national security law. Canadians come up in the middle of Hong Kong’s unrest. Last year, Ottawa opened two new immigration routes for Hong Kong residents: one for students and one for workers.
“With young Hong Kongers looking abroad, we want them to select Canada,” then-Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino said last year in a statement.
“Our Hong Kong immigration gateway is a historic initiative designed to attract exceptional individuals who will help our economy grow.” “Skilled Hong Kongers will have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to advance their professions while also accelerating our recovery,” he said. It appears to be effective.
The year before, Canada welcomed 2,295 new Hong Kong permanent residents. This is more than double the 1,045 new permanent residents from Hong Kong in 2020 and 49% more than the 1,540 new permanent residents from Hong Kong in 2019, the previous full year before the Covid-19 pandemic started.
According to the most recent Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) data, 555 Hong Kongers became new permanent residents of Canada in the first two months of this year. This means that Canada will get 3,330 new permanent citizens from Hong Kong this year. The proportion of Hong Kongers moving to Canada has been continuously increasing since at least 2015 when 895 made the trip. The next year, and again in 2017, there were 1,360 new permanent residents from Hong Kong, with 1,525 in 2018.
Several Hong Kong citizens felt compelled to flee as a result of the anti-democracy crackdowns. Last year, when Ottawa announced a new road to permanent residence for Hong Kong university and college graduates who had completed at least 50% of their program in a Canadian college or university, the number of Canadian study permits for Hong Kong residents increased.
In the year preceding the pandemic, Canada provided 2,490 study permits to Hong Kong students. This increased the number of study permits available to Hong Kong students the following year to 2,605.
There appeared to be little change at the start of last year. Then the new route was unveiled, and the number of study licenses awarded to Hong Kong residents increased dramatically. Canada will have given 6,370 study permits to Hong Kong residents by the end of 2021, more than doubling the amount issued in 2019.
The other road to permanent residency opened up for Hong Kong residents last year was for workers with at least one year of full-time job experience – or the equivalent of 1,560 hours in part-time work – and a university degree, certificate, or college diploma. It was not necessary to complete that education in Canada or at a Canadian institution or university.
The number of Hong Kongers working as temporary residents in Canada has increased dramatically since the revelation of that option to permanent residents. Last year, Canada gave 5,550 work permits to Hong Kong residents through the International Mobility Program (IMP), a 136.2 percent increase from the 2,350 work permits issued in 2020 and a 169.4 percent rise from the 2,060 work permits provided the year before the pandemic.
Last year, the number of work permits awarded through the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) increased as well. These increased by over 71.9 percent, to 275, from 160 the previous year, and by 150 percent from 110 issued in 2019. This implies there were 5,825 temporary employees from Hong Kong in Canada last year, about three times the 2,170 in the previous full year before the pandemic, and more than twice as many students from there too.
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