© Reuters. Eric Li, co-founder of the Toronto Hong Kong Parent Group, which has been connecting new immigrants with employers who support the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong, accompanies a newcomer to an interview with the government in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. June 15. two
By Sarah Wu
OTTAWA (Reuters) – Hong Kong residents in Canada are coming together to help the latest wave of immigrants fleeing Beijing’s increasingly tight grip on their city.
Networks across the country, some of which are descended from groups established after China’s crackdown on Tiananmen Square protesters in 1989, provide newcomers with everything from jobs and accommodation to health and legal services. mental health and even car trips to the grocery store.
“We are in a battle. These are my comrades, people who share the same values,” a 38-year-old man who asked to be identified only as Ho told Reuters. “Who is going to offer that helping hand if I don’t?”
Ho runs a cooking school near Toronto and said he hired a former assistant to a Hong Kong Democratic politician to promote his business online, and recently hired a new kitchen assistant who participated in the city’s pro-democracy protests. in 2019.
Ho, who came to Canada as a teenager before Britain returned Hong Kong to China in 1997, is just one person helping the network of support groups that have formed in Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton in the United States. last two years.
Immigrants caring for one another is not unique. But people in Canada, which has one of the world’s largest overseas concentrations of Hong Kong people, told Reuters the situation is urgent because many of the people they seek to help fear arrest for participating in protests. past and may not. be able to afford professional help to resettle abroad.
“It is my natural duty,” said Ho, who asked not to be identified by his full name and did not name his new employees, fearing trouble with the Hong Kong authorities. “If I were in Hong Kong, I would be in a desperate position. If there was a helping hand, I would hold onto it.”
Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law in Hong Kong a year ago, banning a wide range of political activities and effectively ending public protests. Many pro-democracy activists and politicians, including prominent Beijing critics Joshua Wong and Jimmy Lai, have been arrested under the new law or for protest-related offenses. Many people have already left the territory.
The Hong Kong and Chinese governments say the law was necessary to restore stability after the sometimes violent protests of 2019, and that it preserves the freedoms guaranteed by Beijing after Britain returned Hong Kong to China.
“Hong Kong’s national security law upholds the rights and freedoms of the Hong Kong people,” said a spokesman for the Hong Kong Security Office. “Any law enforcement action taken by Hong Kong law enforcement agencies is based on evidence, strictly in accordance with the law, of the acts of the persons or entities involved.”
Great Britain and Canada are two of the most popular destinations for people leaving Hong Kong after the imposition of the national security law.
Some 34,000 people applied to live in Britain in the first two months after the country introduced a new fast track to residency for Hong Kongers earlier this year, according to the University of Oxford Migration Observatory, citing government data. .
About a fifth of that number applied for temporary and permanent residency in Canada in the first four months of this year, according to the government. The total number of Hong Kong residents going to Canada is likely to be higher, but it is difficult to track as many already have Canadian passports from previous waves of emigration.
Hundreds of thousands of Hong Kongers moved there in the 1980s and 1990s for fear of losing wealth and property, or much of their freedom, after Communist Party-ruled China regained control of the city.
But the city prospered and preserved freedoms that weren’t available in mainland China, so many Hong Kongers returned home or kept one foot in each country. The latest wave of emigration seems more likely to be permanent, as China stamps its authority on Hong Kong.
Canada relaxed its restrictions on admitting Hong Kong residents after the imposition of the national security law last year. It established a new work visa program aimed primarily at young Hong Kongers with a degree or diploma from a post-secondary institution within the past five years, along with two pathways to permanent residence for Hong Kongers in Canada who have recently worked or completed a position. -Secondary studies in the country.
The new coronavirus has complicated things for newcomers. Under Canada’s latest travel restrictions, even those who have been granted permission to live and work in Canada through the new programs can only enter the country if they have a job offer.
That’s where the support network comes in. The Toronto Hong Kong Parent Group has so far assisted 40 people, half of whom have already received three-year permits, according to Eric Li, the group’s co-founder and former president of Canada. -Hong Kong Link, a rights advocacy organization established in 1997.
Li said the group has encouraged 20 employers to offer jobs to people arriving from Hong Kong, including Ho’s cooking school, restaurants, a construction company, a travel agency and a family who hired a Cantonese tutor. for your children.
The Toronto group also has interpreters, lawyers and psychotherapists to assist newcomers and has 10 rooms that it can provide as free temporary accommodation. The rooms are in the homes of the members or their friends.
Volunteers in Calgary said they have helped at least 29 asylum seekers, picking up many at the airport and taking them to doctor’s offices, supermarkets and banks.
Canada has long had one of the largest populations of Hong Kongers abroad, some of whom came together in 2019 to hold demonstrations in solidarity with protests at home.
Many of the new groups may have their roots in activist organizations that were formed in response to Beijing’s crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in and around Tiananmen Square in 1989, or the 1997 handover. The groups already they have contacts with social agencies, such as Community Family Services of Ontario or York Support Services Network, or with churches and professionals willing to help.
The Vancouver Parents Group, supported by the Vancouver Society in Support of the Democratic Movement that was formed in 1989, has raised more than C $ 80,000 ($ 65,963) to help Hong Kong protesters settle in Canada with the costs life and legal fees.
Vancouver “parents” show newcomers how to navigate public transportation or get a library card, and organize donations of winter clothing or kitchen utensils, according to Ken Tung, one of the volunteers.
Tung said his goal is “to give them a stepping stone to move forward.”
Alison, a protester who left Hong Kong last year after many of her friends were arrested for participating in the protests, was one of the people the Calgary group helped.
Along with a few other newcomers, he launched the Soteria Institute, named after the Greek goddess of safety and salvation, to offer free, weekly, online English lessons, resume writing workshops, and emotional support.
“We understand what they are experiencing,” said Alison, who asked to be identified by only one name. “We try to use our experience to help more exiles from Hong Kong.”