Fourteen Hongkongers have received political asylum from Canada, according to a group advocating for Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement in the country.

In a statement released on Tuesday, the New Hong Kong Cultural Club said that – since 2019 – it has helped over 40 protesters in self-imposed exile in Canada.

File photo: Abdallahh, via Flickr.

Close to 30 of them have received claimant status, meaning that their asylum applications are pending approval. “There are 14 of them who have successfully been granted as Canadian political refugees and will be able to apply for permanent [residency] right away,” the statement read.

“Not all [of the asylum seekers] were charged or arrested [by Hong Kong authorities], but some were physically abused and intimidated” in connection with the protests, a Club spokesperson Bruce, who declined to give his real name for fear of retribution, told HKFP.

According to annual statistics provided by the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, it received nine asylum application referrals from individuals seeking protection from alleged persecution in Hong Kong in 2019, but the figure rose to 25 between January and October 2020. The country had previously granted asylum to two claimants from Hong Kong in 2013.

The Board withheld the numbers of asylum claims from Hongkongers that were granted or rejected between January and October 2020. The data was withheld based on a new rule imposed since October to protect claimants from being identified from the dataset, according to the Board’s website.

The shortest pending period for Hong Kong applicants was nine months, he said. “The applications were strong because some of the cases were referrals from reliable sources and organisations in Hong Kong, and claims of their persecution were independently verified by the Club.”

In a response to HKFP‘s enquiry, the Board said it “can neither confirm nor deny whether any individual has sought asylum in Canada,” for reasons of privacy.

Some of the individuals the Cultural Club has assisted have found jobs or are pursuing studies, the group said. It estimated the number of people fleeing to Canada would have been higher, had the country not closed its borders to visitors since last April because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Canadian government is also due to announce its “Young Talent Scheme” in the coming months, which will come as “a lifeboat for the fleeing young Hongkongers,” the group said.

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Selina Cheng

Selina Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist who previously worked with HK01, Quartz and AFP Beijing. She also covered the Umbrella Movement for AP and reported for a newspaper in France. Selina has studied investigative reporting at the Columbia Journalism School.