The Chinese ambassador to Ottawa has warned the Canadian government against accepting future refugees from Hong Kong, calling those from the city seeking asylum abroad “violent criminals.”

The ambassador also suggested that the granting of further asylum to fugitives could endanger the “good health and safety” of Canadian passport holders and Canadian businesses currently in Hong Kong.

Ambassador Cong Peiwu. Photo: ChinaGov.

The statements were made during a video press conference on Thursday commemorating the 50th anniversary of Ottawa-Beijing relations.

“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,” Cong Peiwu said.

The envoy also refuted President Justin Trudeau’s comments earlier this week after he said Beijing was attempting to strong-arm other countries: “There is no coercive diplomacy on the Chinese side,” Cong said, adding that the Hong Kong and Xinjiang “issues” were ones of China’s “internal affairs,” not human rights.

Trudeau on Tuesday blasted China for its alleged arbitrary detention of two Canadian citizens, vowing to resist China’s aggression: “We will remain absolutely committed to working with our allies to ensure that China’s approach of coercive diplomacy, its arbitrary detention of two Canadian citizens alongside other citizens of other countries around the world, is not viewed as a successful tactic by them.”

File photo: World Bank Photo Collection via Flickr.

Two Canadians citizens have been held in detention in China since December 2018. The two were detained on espionage charges shortly after Canada’s arrest of Chinese telecoms company Huawei’s Chief Financial Officer, Meng Wanzhou.

The Chinese ambasssador’s comments follow reports of a couple from Hong Kong being granted asylum earlier this month. More than 45 other fugitives from Hong Kong are awaiting a decision on their asylum applications, according to the Toronto-based The Globe and Mail.

There are currently 300,000 people residing in Hong Kong who hold Canadian passports.

‘Meaningful action’

Rights group Alliance Canada Hong Kong “strongly condemned” the Chinese ambassador’s “veiled threats” on Friday. “We would like to remind Ambassador Cong Peiwu that the Chinese Communist Party signed an international agreement to uphold Hong Kong’s autonomy and freedoms for 50 years: an agreement they have ignored, trampled on, and now torn to shreds,” a statement read.

Photo: Heidi Lee.

“Their actions are the reason that many Hong Kongers are seeking asylum in Canada, because they no longer feel safe in Hong Kong or their human rights will be protected in Hong Kong under control of the new national security law,” it added.

Separately, a coalition of 117 organisations and cross-party politicians issued a joint statement on Friday following Cong’s comments, urging the Canadian authorities to take further measures to address the “human rights crisis” in Hong Kong.

The letter called for the implementation of a “Safe Harbour Program” designed to expedite the process for Hongkongers who face “political persecution under the national security law” to gain asylum and permanent residency in Canada.

Photo: Mat Hampson, via Flickr.

It also called on the Canadian government to impose Magnitsky-style sanctions upon Hong Kong and Chinese officials who played a role in the promulgation of the controversial law.

“We, the undersigned, call upon the Government of Canada to take action in light of the mass
arrests and assault on civil rights following the unilateral imposition of the new national
security law in Hong Kong,” the statement read.

“Canada needs to work closely with international allies with shared values to institute a strong
policy toward China. It is time for Canada to take meaningful action to show leadership on
the world stage.”

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Rhoda Kwan

Rhoda Kwan is HKFP's Assistant Editor. She has previously written for TimeOut Hong Kong and worked at Meanjin, a literary journal. She holds a double bachelor’s degree in Law and Literature from the University of Hong Kong.