Canada is expanding the criteria of its temporary work permit programme for Hongkongers, Canadian Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Sean Fraser announced on Monday.

The scheme was introduced after Beijing imposed the national security law upon Hong Kong in 2020 in the wake of citywide protests and unrest. It was due to expire on Tuesday, but has now been extended to February 7, 2025.

Canadian Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Sean Fraser. Photo: Canadian Gov’t, via YouTube screenshot.

Fraser said that any Hongkonger who graduated from a post-secondary learning institution within the past decade may now apply to work in Canada. Previously, the limit was five years.

Spouses, common-law partners or dependent children are also welcome to apply for the programme. Meanwhile, Hongkongers with a Canadian education or work experience may go on to apply for permanent residency.

Fraser told the press that Hongkongers would gain work experience and support the Canadian economy. “Canada will continue to support the many meaningful exchanges between Canada and Hong Kong while standing up for the people of Hong Kong,” he said.

“By extending and expanding Canada’s open work permits for Hongkongers, we are giving Canadian employers more skilled workers to hire at a time when we need them most and providing valuable work experience, all while also showing our support for the people of Hong Kong.”

The scheme is open only to those who hold a Hong Kong Special Administrative Region or British National (Overseas) passport.

Canada. Photo: vtgard, via Flickr.

In June 2020, Beijing inserted national security legislation directly into Hong Kong’s mini-constitution – bypassing the local legislature – following a year of pro-democracy protests and unrest. It criminalised subversion, secession, collusion with foreign forces and terrorist acts, which were broadly defined to include disruption to transport and other infrastructure. The move gave police sweeping new powers, alarming democrats, civil society groups and trade partners, as such laws have been used broadly to silence and punish dissidents in China. However, the authorities say it has restored stability and peace to the city.

Hong Kong launched a HK$2 billion charm offensive last week in a bid to win back tourists and businesses following years of Covid isolation. Last October, Chief Executive John Lee also announced measures to attract talent and slow brain drain, admitting that the workforce had shrunk by 140,000 over two years.

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Tom Grundy

Tom is the editor-in-chief and founder of Hong Kong Free Press. He has a BA in Communications and New Media from Leeds University and an MA in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong. He has contributed to the BBC, Euronews, Al-Jazeera and others.