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Police stand guard in Causeway Bay before the annual handover march in Hong Kong, on July. 1, 2020.The Associated Press

The Canadian government is so far giving no indication that it’s prepared to make special accommodations to welcome a possible exodus of Hong Kongers after China imposed a new security law on the former British colony.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison signalled on Thursday that his government may follow Britain in offering visas to Hong Kong citizens after China passed a law granting Beijing sweeping new powers to crack down on dissent in the Asian city.

In response to the legislation, Britain has announced that it will create five-year work and study visas for the city’s 2.9 million holders of British national (overseas) passports, giving nearly half of Hong Kong’s population a path to British citizenship.

Mr. Morrison said on Thursday that events in Hong Kong were concerning and that the Australian government was “prepared to step up and provide support.”

Asked if Australia would consider offering safe haven to Hong Kong people, similar to Britain, he replied: “We are considering very actively the proposals that I asked to be brought forward several weeks ago and the final touches would be put on those, and they’ll soon be considered by cabinet to provide similar opportunities.”

Questioned about whether the Canadian government would also be prepared to offer safe haven to Hong Kongers, Ottawa issued a statement Thursday that it has used earlier, which discusses how people seeking refuge here can apply through regular channels.

“All eligible asylum claimants receive a full and fair hearing on the individual merits of their claim at the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada,” said Kevin Lemkay, press secretary to Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino.

”Canada has always been a welcoming society and we will continue to open our doors to newcomers, including those fleeing persecution, terror and war.”

Conservative MP Garnett Genuis said Canada should be doing more than advising Hong Kongers to go through regular channels. Ottawa could amend immigration and refugee rules to make it easier for them to work, study or find a path to permanent residency, he said.

“Our allies are stepping up and we should work collaboratively with them,” Mr. Genuis said.

In 2015 and 2016, the Trudeau government brought 25,000 Syrians to Canada. And after China’s Tiananmen Square massacre in June, 1989, Brian Mulroney’s government arranged to have thousands of Chinese citizens already here in Canada obtain permanent residence.

Close to 50 Hong Kongers – many of whom took part in the massive demonstrations that began last year – are already seeking asylum in Canada, citing harassment and brutality at the hands of police in Hong Kong and fear of unjust prosecution.

Amnesty International and other human-rights groups have documented arbitrary arrests, brutal beatings and torture committed by Hong Kong police since mass protests began in mid-2019 over proposed legislative changes that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China.

Vancouver-based immigration lawyer Richard Kurland has predicted that the new national-security law will end up driving many young, well-educated Hong Kong residents to Western countries.

“This is probably going to be the greatest human-capital harvest in recent memory.”

With reports from Reuters

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