Prime Minister Justin Trudeau condemned China’s new national-security law for Hong Kong Thursday in his strongest language to date and encouraged the more than 300,000 Canadian citizens living in the Asian city to return home any time they feel threatened by Beijing’s repression.
Mr. Trudeau told reporters that Canada and key allies reject Beijing’s decision to impose a new national-security law that would tighten the Chinese Communist Party’s grip over Hong Kong, and encroach on the self-rule and freedoms that China originally pledged would continue for 50 years in the former British colony after the 1997 handover.
“We have worked with some of our closest allies, including the U.K., Australia and others to condemn the actions taken by China in Hong Kong. We are extremely concerned with their stepping away from the … one country, two systems agreement that was signed a few decades ago,” Mr. Trudeau said.
His comments came the same day that Hong Kong’s legislature, currently dominated by pro-Beijing politicians, passed a law making it a crime to mock China’s national anthem. It’s a measure that proponents had previously been leery of adopting for fear of a popular backlash but now feel emboldened to act as China asserts greater control over the city.
More than 300,000 Canadian citizens live in Hong Kong, a population that would amount to a large Canadian city.
Mr. Trudeau, like other members of his cabinet before him, declined to say whether Canada would open its doors to Hongkongers without Canadian connections who might seek refuge here if conditions deteriorate. As The Globe and Mail reported last month, nearly 50 Hong Kong activists, many who face charges back home for participating in protests, have already filed for asylum in Canada.
The Prime Minister said, however, that Canada will continue to join forces with allies to press China to back off its encroachment on Hong Kong.
“We continue to work with partners and allies around the world on ways to ensure that China knows that its actions in Hong Kong are deeply troubling, are of real concern for the sake of people of Hong Kong but elsewhere around the world as well,” Mr. Trudeau said.
In a remarkable move Wednesday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson delivered a direct message to the former British colony, pledging in a column in Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post that he would provide a path to British citizenship for approximately three million qualifying Hongkongers after Beijing officially adopts the new security law.
“Many people in Hong Kong fear their way of life – which China pledged to uphold – is under threat. If China proceeds to justify their fears, then Britain could not in good conscience shrug our shoulders and walk away," he wrote.
“Britain would then have no choice but to uphold our profound ties of history and friendship with the people of Hong Kong.”
This offer would grant residency and the right to work in Britain to approximately 40 per cent of Hong Kong’s population – those born in the Asian city before 1997 when it was turned over to China. These people are currently eligible for what are called British National Overseas passports. About 350,000 people already hold them and another 2.5 million are eligible to apply.
The documents currently allow holders to stay in Britain for six months, but Mr. Johnson said London would expand this duration.
“If China imposes its national-security law, the British government will change our immigration rules and allow any holder of these passports from Hong Kong to come to the U.K. for a renewable period of 12 months and be given further immigration rights, including the right to work, which could place them on a route to citizenship.”
Mr. Trudeau’s tougher language on Hong Kong is occurring as an international cross-party alliance of legislators from nine parliaments – Canada, United States, Britain, Japan, the European Union, Germany, Australia, Norway and Sweden – came together to press their governments to take a tougher stand on China.
The newly formed Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC) includes Liberal MP John McKay, chair of the Commons public safety and national-security committee, as well as Conservative MP Garnett Genuis, a member of the House Canada-China committee.
Among the U.S. members are Robert Menendez, the most powerful Democratic senator on the Senate committee on foreign relations and Republican Marco Rubio, acting chair of the Senate intelligence committee.
“China under the rule of the Chinese Communist Party represents a global challenge," the alliance of legislators said in a statement. “Democratic norms that keep us free and safe are under ever greater pressure. The rules-based order is suffering. And this cannot continue unchecked. When countries have stood up for values and human rights, they have done so alone – sometimes, at great cost.”
Mr. Genuis said Canada and Western democracies need to prepare to impose the kind of economic and diplomatic sanctions that the West imposed on Russia after Moscow forcibly annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.
“We need to see a broad range of actions where Canada is insisting that actions be taken that go beyond just words. But it starts with that condemnation and then we co-ordinate [sanctions] among like-minded countries.”
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