Canada warned not to assume all Hong Kong protesters are "innocent”

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

The Canadian government was warned by its immigration officials not to assume the protest-related charges faced by Hongkongers, that are seeking entry to Canada, are all made up by the Hong Kong government. 

The Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada's Hong Kong office warned the Canadian government so in a report issued in June last year, the Globe and Mail reported. 

The report was headlined “Inadmissibility Risks”. The HK office advised Ottawa not to consider Hongkongers innocent if they apply for visas or asylum but have protest-related charges. 

The report said “it cannot be assumed that charges are politicized or trumped up by authorities; there have been shocking images of violent attacks during confrontations.” 

The immigration unit at the Canadian consulate in Hong Kong also predicted that “those fearing prosecution for their involvement in protests may seek refuge in easily accessible foreign countries.” 

Canada was warned to expect more protest-related criminal convictions in the files of Hongkongers who apply to work, study or move to Canada. 

The report also provided figures, that about 9,000 Hongkongers were arrested between June 9, 2019 and May 29, 2020, with 1,547 awaiting for trial. 

China’s envoy to Canada likewise warned against granting entry to protesters last fall. 

“We strongly urge the Canadian side not to grant so-called political asylum to those violent criminals in Hong Kong, because it is interference in China’s domestic affairs, and certainly it will embolden those violent criminals,” ambassador Cong Peiwu said. 

Canadian Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino’s office replied that the government does not believe Hongkongers facing charges related to protests are criminals seeking to flee justice and does not assume any charges they face are justified, when asked for comment. 

“We will not speculate on any case, but rather evaluate each one very carefully on its facts and merits,” Alexander Cohen, press secretary to Mendicino, said. 

The unrest in Hong Kong began in June 2019 after efforts by Beijing-backed lawmakers to legislate extradition to China. The protests then evolved into expressions of broader civic dissent. The demonstrations were only curbed in early months of 2020 by the Covid-19 pandemic.