Hong Kong officials welcomed the return of a team who attended the World Police and Fire Games held in Winnipeg last week, and accused those who denounced the officers’ attendance of smearing the city and its disciplined services.
According to a news release published by the Hong Kong government on Tuesday, the region’s Chief Secretary, Eric Chan; the Permanent Secretary for Security, Patrick Li; and the Commissioner of the Hong Kong Police Force, Raymond Siu, congratulated the team who won 275 medals at the games held between July 28 and Aug. 6.
According to the release, Mr. Chan commended the police athletes but “expressed outrage over various despicable acts by people or organisations with ulterior motives to smear the HKSAR athletes in Canada, and activities called for on the Internet to oppose the entry of the HKSAR police officers into Canada, attempting to politicise and stigmatise the international sports event.”
Ta Kung Pao, a Beijing-backed newspaper, said advocacy groups – Winnipeg Hong Kong Concern and Vancouver Society in Support of Democratic Movement (VSSDM) – were ”creating chaos” in an article published on Wednesday.
Members with both advocacy groups have publicly expressed concerns about Hong Kong Police Force’s presence in Canada. They said it would be especially intimidating and worrying for people who fled the Chinese-controlled city after a police crackdown on anti-Beijing protests in 2019 and the passage of the National Security Law in 2020.
The news article listed some personal details of the Winnipeg group including several member’s names, ages, when they moved to Canada and whether they have family in Hong Kong.
Jimmy Cheung of the group said he had no clue how the publication obtained their members’ personal information.
“Of course we are afraid, too, but we know this is something that we must do,“ he said in a text message.
He said the Hong Kong government’s condemnation is recognition of activists’ hard work.
“We are a small group of people lack of funding and manpower. All we did this time was simply calling them out on the street and contacting politicians and media with the hope to raise some awareness. If they consider such small actions could threaten their national security, or potentially cripple their regime, that only reflects their regime is fragile and they are all cowards.”
Meanwhile, 11 parliamentarians – including both the Conservative Party and NDP immigration critics Tom Kmiec and Jenny Kwan and two Liberal MPs – signed a joint letter this week to Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly, as well as Marc Miller, who was moved from Crown-Indigenous Relations to Immigration in a recent federal cabinet shuffle.
In the letter they urged the two departments to investigate why a few hundred Hong Kong police officers, including the force’s chief, Mr. Siu, were allowed to enter Canada.
They said allowing these officers to attend the games just two weeks after the force targeted eight overseas-based activists with arrest warrants and bounties undermines Canada’s commitment to support human rights, the rule of law and the people of Hong Kong.
“We urge you to investigate why these police officers were given visa waivers, what steps will be taken to prevent such waivers in the future particularly to those who have been accused of complicity in human rights violations, and to ensure that in the future that Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada will not green light visas for human rights violators,” the letter reads.
IRCC and Global Affairs Canada didn’t respond to a request to comment on the call for an investigation.
IRCC spokesperson Mary Rose Sabater declined to comment on why the department allowed entry for the team from Hong Kong, citing privacy legislation.
In general, she said, visa applications are considered on a case-by-case basis on the specific facts presented by the applicant in each case.
Ms. Sabater said, generally, foreign nationals who seek to enter Canada must first apply for a temporary resident visa or an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) and must meet all eligibility and admissibility requirements.
Holders of Hong Kong passports are visa-exempt and may apply for an eTA to come to Canada.
Ms. Sabater said reasons for a refusal of a visa or an eTA application include security concerns, a criminal record or a medical condition.
Ms. Kwan said in an interview on Thursday that the police officers from the Chinese-ruled city should have been red flagged, particularly those who are recognized human-rights violators. “But none of that was flagged through the process, and they all just came through.”
Immigration lawyer Richard Kurland said it’s difficult to prevent them from coming.
“It’s a free and democratic society, our borders are open, we have controls. Each person through the eTA system is verified,” he said.
When asked whether Ottawa should reconsider Hong Kongers’ privilege to get an automatic pass on a visa, given federal government’s denunciation on the way the territory is being managed, Mr. Kurland said: “This is the moment to facilitate exit from Hong Kong, not put up extra mobility barriers. Canada’s door needs to remain wide open for people from Hong Kong.”