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Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino said two new immigration streams will now begin taking applications from Hong Kongers working in Canada or recent university graduates from Hong Kong now living in Canada.

Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

The federal government is opening up new immigration options for Hong Kongers to make Canada their home as Beijing continues its unprecedented crackdown on the former British colony.

Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino said two new immigration streams will now begin taking applications from Hong Kongers working in Canada or recent university graduates from Hong Kong now living in Canada. They will be offered a quicker and more efficient pathway to permanent residence.

“At this difficult moment, Canada continues to stand shoulder to shoulder with the people of Hong Kong. We are deeply concerned about China’s imposition of the National Security Law, and more broadly the deteriorating human rights situation in Hong Kong,” the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship department said in a statement.

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This is on top of a program announced in February targeted at people living in Hong Kong who had graduated from a Canadian or foreign university. It offers them a three-year open work permit that would help pave the way for applying for permanent residency.

The work permit program opened in February and has so far attracted 3,481 applications, the department said on Monday.

An exodus from Hong Kong has been expected since the Chinese government imposed the national security law on Hong Kong in June, 2020, saying it was to target secession, subversion and terrorism. But it includes vaguely defined offences that critics say effectively criminalize dissent and opposition to the Chinese Communist Party’s rule.

“With young Hong Kongers casting their eyes abroad, we want them to choose Canada,” Mr. Mendicino said in a statement.

“Skilled Hong Kongers will have a unique opportunity to both develop their careers and help accelerate our recovery. This landmark initiative will strengthen our economy and deepen the strong ties between Canada and the people of Hong Kong.”

Canada and Western allies have called China’s clampdown a violation of the international treaty it signed pledging to allow local autonomy and civil rights to continue for 50 years after the 1997 handover.

Records show Hong Kongers have already moved billions of dollars to Canada. Last year, capital flows out of Hong Kong banks and into Canada reached the highest level on record, with about $43.6-billion in electronic funds transfers recorded by FINTRAC, Canada’s anti-money-laundering agency.

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A crackdown on civil rights in Hong Kong that accelerated in 2020 amid the global pandemic has steadily eroded the territory’s political and social freedoms that were unique in China, a legacy of the territory’s years under British control. Earlier this year, Chinese lawmakers approved changes to Hong Kong’s electoral system, further reducing democratic representation in the city’s institutions and introducing a mechanism to vet and screen politicians for loyalty to Beijing.

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