Hongkongers who recently graduated from Canadian educational institutions will soon have a new pathway to permanent residency as Ottawa launches a three-year open work permit for them, citing “deep concerns” about the national security law.

Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Marco Mendicino announced on Thursday that the country will start accepting applications for the new work permit next Monday. Applicants must be Hong Kong residents who obtained a post-secondary diploma or degree in Canada in the last five years, or hold an equivalent foreign credential.

Marco Mendicino. Photo: Marco Mendicino, via Facebook.

Mendicino described the arrangement as a “landmark immigration initiative,” saying it would allow young Hongkongers to gain “valuable employment experience” and make “significant contributions” to Canada.

“The launch of the Hong Kong immigration pathway is a historic initiative that will attract young, talented and experienced graduates who will help to drive Canada’s economy forward,” the immigration minister said in a statement.

The Canadian government said in the statement it was “deeply concerned” about the new security legislation enacted last June 30, which criminalises secession, subversion, collusion with foreign forces and terrorist acts. It also cited a “deteriorating human rights situation” and said it would continue to support Hongkongers.

“The first Hong Kong residents arrived here over 150 years ago, contributing immensely to Canada’s economic, social and political life. Canada continues to stand shoulder to shoulder with the people of Hong Kong,” the statement said.

Canada is set to roll out two other pathways to citizenship to Hongkongers later this year. The first will cover individuals with at least one year of work experience in Canada, while the other will allow graduates of Canadian post-secondary institutions to apply to become permanent residents directly.

The country is among several that expanded its immigration policies for Hong Kong residents following the enactment of the sweeping security legislation. The UK launched a new visa programme last Sunday for British National (Overseas) passport holders and their family members, allowing them to study or work in the country for up to five years with the prospect of citizenship.

In retaliation, the Hong Kong and Chinese governments announced plans to stop recognising BN(O) passports as travel and identification documents and warned that tougher moves may follow.

Photo: GovHK.

Australia announced last July that students and skilled workers from Hong Kong would be eligible for a five-year temporary visa, which will open up a pathway to permanent residency.

As of January, Hong Kong police had arrested 97 people under the controversial security law, which is often described as “draconian” by its critics. The largest national security round-up took place in early January, when 55 pro-democracy figures were apprehended for committing “subversion” by organising and taking participating in an unofficial primary election for the now-postponed 2020 Legislative Council election.

Another high-profile arrestee under the security legislation was media tycoon Jimmy Lai. He stands accused of “colluding with foreign forces” by using Twitter and his pro-democracy tabloid Apple Daily to urge overseas governments to impose sanctions on local and mainland officials.

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Kelly Ho

Kelly Ho has an interest in local politics, education and sports. She formerly worked at South China Morning Post Young Post, where she specialised in reporting on issues related to Hong Kong youth. She has a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong, with a second major in Politics and Public Administration.