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ACHK releases new report on foreign influence activities in Canada

OTTAWA, ON (May 31, 2021) – Alliance Canada Hong Kong published a new report titled, “In Plain Sight: Beijing’s Unrestricted Network of Foreign Influence in Canada.” This report examines the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) foreign influence and interference operations happening in Canada and provides recommendations on how to address these operations.

Read the full report here.

Seven aspects of the CCP’s foreign influence operations are covered in the report:

  1. Political influence,
  2. Elite capture,
  3. Surveillance and intimidation,
  4. Information and narrative discursion warfare,
  5. Academic influence & vulnerability of intellectual property,
  6. National security,
  7. United Front Work Department.
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ACHK to testify at the Special Committee on Canada-China Relations

Ottawa, ON (May 31, 2021) — Alliance Canada Hong Kong’s Executive Director Cherie Wong is set to testify at the Special Committee on Canada-China Relations tonight at 7:30pm Eastern / 4:30pm Pacific.

Below is the transcript of Cherie’s introductory remarks:

Thank you for inviting me again to speak to the committee.

Before I start, I want to make clear that diasporic communities are not a monolithic group. With heightened geopolitical tensions, we need to prioritize the protection of the diaspora and dissident communities from the Chinese Communist Party’s surveillance and intimidation, and be critical while not fanning xenophobia.

I was asked to speak about harassment and intimidation today, but what I’m about to tell you might not be what you’re expecting.

Dissidents are not safe. Not at work, not in their own homes, not in civil societies, and not in Canada.

Threats, censorship and intimidation will continue as long as companies, non-profits, academia, politicians, media and other institutions with vested interests are fearful of angering Beijing to do their bidding. Beijing is effectively exporting their authoritarianism overseas.

From previous meetings, witnesses from Canada’s intelligence and enforcement agencies assured the committee of their collective efforts in combating foreign interference. With my lived experiences, I can tell you existing institutions and legislations are not working. Beijing’s foreign influence cannot be addressed with blanket policies as the CCP operates across sectors and often within legal grey areas, making bans or criminalization largely ineffective.

Last time, I spoke about Beijing’s global expansionist authoritarianism, their blatant disregard for international rules based order, their influence and interference operations in Canada — including my own experience of surveillance and harassment. Beijing’s capacities, capabilities, and ambitions already pose a dangerous threat, but few countries fully see the CCP’s global strategy of influence.

The CCP has been testing the tolerance of liberal democracies with their authoritarian overreach, as international norms are actively being rewritten.

Current approach to China lacks the comprehensive view from diasporic communities that speak the language, understand its history, cultures and intentions. Activists have witnessed these influence efforts since the 90s – this is not new, but only newly realized.

In ACHK’s most recent report and recommendations, we covered surface level examinations of seven aspects of the CCP’s foreign interference currently observed in Canada:

  • Political influence
  • Elite capture
  • Surveillance and intimidation
  • Information and narrative discursion warfare
  • Academic Influence & Vulnerability of Intellectual Property
  • National security
  • United Front Work Department

We found similar tactics, strategies, and operations throughout the different sectors.

We need a whole-of-government approach in how Canada engages with foreign authoritarian powers, like China. We need to invest in the proper tools, infrastructures, and resources to protect Canadians and our national interests.

Canada has an important role to play on the international stage as multilateral actions are an effective way to confront Beijing collaboratively. But it is imperative to expand our foreign and domestic policy toolbox to meet challenges we are facing in the 21st Century.

Our recommendations are as follows:

  • Create legislation for a foreign influence transparency scheme, a public registry of individuals, organizations, and representatives who are acting on behalf of foreign states in Canada

  • Transparency scheme should be paired with a public commission with investigative and enforcement powers, serving as the centralized point to coordinate the different levels of government, Canadian institutions, public agencies, and the general public
  • Support Canadian research & intellectual property with a cohesive federal policy to regulate research collaborations with foreign actors, while increasing funding for Canadian innovations
  • Invest into Resources and Infrastructures for Ethnic Communities in Canada
  • Protecting Canadians by placing restrictions on foreign actors from the collection, purchase, or export of Canadian citizen’s personal information and data

Harassment and intimidation of Canadians need to be understood from the perspective of dissidents. We need an approach to foreign influence that centers the communities’ needs, while addressing the issues holistically and strategically.

Thank you again for having me. I am happy to answer your questions.

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ACHK Submits Updated Recommendations: Immediate Program Options for Hong Kongers Seeking Protection and August Exit Ban Situation Brief

Hong Kong Exit Bans – Gaps and Barriers for Activists to Leave

OTTAWA, ON (May 26, 2021) – ACHK has submitted Updated Recommendations: Immediate Program Options for Hong Kongers Seeking Protection and Situation Brief: Hong Kong Exit Bans – Gaps and Barriers for Activists to Leave, to the Government of Canada.

Immediate Program Options for Hong Kongers Seeking Protection

Writers:
Alliance Canada Hong Kong
ACHK Government Relations Team

The policy brief is available for download here.

 

Hong Kong Exit Bans – Gaps and Barriers for Activists to Leave

Writers:
Alliance Canada Hong Kong
This brief was written with the consultation of Information gathering teams in Hong Kong and Canadian Hong Konger teams currently assisting fleeing activists

The situation brief is available for download here

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ACHK Testifies at Subcommittee on International Human Rights

On Tuesday May 4th, ACHK’s Ai-Men Lau testified in front of the Subcommittee on International Human Rights of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development

A video of their testimony is available here:

The full video of the day’s testimonies is available on parliament’s website here.

A transcript of Ai-Men’s testimony is reproduced below

Bonsoir, je m’appelle Ai-Men Lau. (I want to extend my thanks for the opportunity to testify today.) Je vous remercie de m’avoir invité à témoigner aujourd’hui. I’d also like to thank the technical and translation team for all their hard work.

From the 2019 peaceful protest movement till today, Hong Kong’s autonomy has been decimated by the Chinese Communist Party and the Hong Kong government. This has continued with impunity and the inaction has only emboldened the Chinese regime. 

The Hong Kong Government uses the National Security Law to stamp out street protests, silence dissenting voices, gut the city’s legislature, decimate political opposition, and weaponize COVID-19 health measures to restrict movement, mobility and gatherings, effectively bringing the entire movement to its knees. 

Without an opposition, Beijing has implemented sweeping institutional changes to ensure complete control over the city’s governance, including:

  • Stripping Hong Kong of its electoral autonomy
  • Requiring pledges of allegiance in public sectors
  • Firing teachers for their political views
  • Delegitimizing university student unions 
  • Targeting trade unions and religious groups
  • Raiding and targeting pro-democractic “yellow businesses”
  • Requiring professional bodies like the HK Bar Association to adhere to its “patriotic statutory duties” 
  • Requiring internet service providers to ban specific websites under the NSL

Beijing’s political imperative has now seeped into society and private life.

Living in fear and uncertainty, pro-democracy Hong Kongers are struggling to see a brighter future. Two years ago, Hong Kongers were able to march the streets to voice their concerns. Today they can be arrested for simply holding up blank pieces of paper in protest. 

We have witnessed countless coordinated attacks by police officers and triads on regular civilians, arbitrary arrest of medics and reporters, protestors were beaten, raped, tortured and denied due process. Co-organizers have gone missing for months on end and many more have fled to Taiwan via boat. As of February 28 this year, there are 10,242 arrests and 2,506 prosecutions related to the protests. Yet after two years of perpetrating violent state and police suppression, few, if any police officers, triad members, or government officials have been held accountable. 

Over 60% of youths in Hong Kong are hoping to leave the city. In a city-wide survey conducted by the Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute, 1 in 5 Hong Kongers are seeking to flee the city and 65% are not confident about Hong Kong’s political future.

Even before the passage of the National Security Law, many Hong Kongers who hold foreign passports or have the financial resources have fled the city in fear of retaliation for their involvement in the protest movement, but now, even that may be at risk.

The Hong Kong government has passed a law that can bar people from leaving or entering, transforming Hong Kong into an open air prison. This law will come into effect August 1st, meaning we have a limited window of time  to act.

We have three recommendations for the committee to consider: 

  1. First, we have previously submitted recommendations to CIMM which we will be also submitting to this committee. Canada should create a dedicated asylum pathway for those fleeing prosecution or persecution, along with other immigration policy changes such as modifying private sponsorship and family reunification that enables extended family members to resettle here. Canada should also plan to support the 300K Canadians and their families who need to renew permanent residence status or make applications. We urge you to consider the travel visa restrictions that have barred many from entering Canada, whether to seek asylum or to resettle permanently. 
  2. Second, even though Hong Kongers are hoping to leave the city, we know that many more cannot leave. This is why we need to hold Hong Kong and Chinese officials accountable. Canada should invoke the Justice for the Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act, placing targeted sanctions against the Hong Kong government, Hong Kong Police Force, and PRC officials who are complicit in perpetrating human rights violations. We must also ensure that sanctions are enforceable by the Government of Canada. 
  3. Finally, we also urge Canada to address foreign-state harassment operations , as dissidents’ families are also targeted by authorities in Hong Kong and China. 

Merci/Thank you again for inviting me. I am happy to take your questions.

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ACHK Submits Recommendations to the Subcommittee on International Human Rights

OTTAWA, ON (May 4, 2021) – ACHK has submitted policy recommendations to the Subcommittee on International Human Rights of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development

Summary of 2019-2020 Protest Movement and Hong Kong’s Current Situation Under the National Security Law
Written Submission to the Subcommittee on International Human Rights of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development (SDIR)

Writers:
Alliance Canada Hong Kong
ACHK Government Relations Team
ACHK Support Team

The paper is available for download here.

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ACHK Testifies at the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration

On February 1, 2021, ACHK’s Cherie Wong testified in front of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration.

The full video of the day’s testimonies is available on parliament’s website here.

Transcript of Charie’s Testimony:

Bonjour, my name is Cherie Wong and I want to extend my thanks for the opportunity to appear before the committee today. I follow this committee’s work closely. Witnesses before me spoke about the immigration measure which only appeals to a small group of post-secondary graduates from Hong Kong or international students in Canada. I share similar concerns over the narrow reach of the new policies.

Canada’s approach to Hong Kong’s ongoing crisis fails to consider the realities of everyday people of Hong Kong.

The national security bureau has been carrying out systematic surveillance and clandestine operations, including having plain clothes officers stationed at the airports, loitering inside international terminals and boarding areas. We have friends whose travel documents are confiscated, teammates monitored and followed who are scared for their lives, and fellow activists who are arrested while looking for options to leave. The Hong Kong government is even looking at legislation to impose exit bans and further suppress freedom of movement.

This is not a conventional humanitarian crisis, so conventional solutions are not effective for those who need our help.

Last week, IRCC suggested Hong Kongers to apply through existing programs like family reunification, express entry, and UNHCR. These programs may appeal to middle-upper class migrants, but are not accessible for most Hong Kongers.

Most Hong Kongers do not qualify for travel exemptions under the current border restrictions. And many activists cannot leave the city, with travel documents confiscated and exit visas denied.

For immigration programs that rely on points systems. Our team assessed various profiles of well-known activists, none would have high enough scores to be successful under recent draws based on their socio-economic status, age, or professional history.

Most programs request a police check and biometric data. But the Hong Kong Police Force has carried out arbitrary mass arrests, staining many with a criminal record. A police check can be used to inform authorities of activists’ intention to flee the city.

Even if Hong Kongers qualify, they do not have the capacity, resources or the luxury of time to be stuck in bureaucratic processes in these pathways.

I cannot stress this enough: Canada’s conventional immigration and asylum pathways are failing Hong Kongers. We need a cohesive resettlement strategy that puts Hong Kong’s deteriorating situation into consideration.

Hong Kong’s political opposition has been decimated and the network of activists has been severely compromised. Persecution through the NSL has manifested indirectly through regulations at various social, political, legal and judicial sectors: loyalty oaths at the civil service and district councils, banning TV shows, textbooks, and websites, firing teachers and union activists, and mandatory biometrics for professional registration.

We expect the Chinese and Hong Kong governments to shift attention to every citizen who has participated in protests, voted in the democratic primaries, or even posted on social media.

Time is running out for Hong Kongers.

We have submitted a written brief to the committee, outlining our recommendations.

1. Create a dedicated asylum pathway for those fleeing persecution, allowing Hong Kongers to apply for travel documents directly from overseas with the ability to waive border restrictions.

2. Modify existing private sponsorship and family reunification measures to enable Canadian’s extended family members and activists to resettle in Canada.

3. Modernize and expedite the Canadian immigration and asylum system to address the backlog of new and pending claims.

4. Create a clear and strategic communications plan to combat misinformation and promote the various existing pathways for Hong Kongers.

5. Release a plan to support Canadians and their families in Hong Kong. Restore citizenship and permanent residence status, and expedited permanent residence pathways for extended family members

These are not standalone recommendations, but mean to work together to create a comprehensive strategy that addresses the diverse needs and maximize accessibility for Hong Kongers to resettle in Canada. All of these recommendations should be inclusive of individuals from Hong Kong who may not hold a BNO or HKSAR passport.

Thank you all, merci beaucoup.

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ACHK Submits Recommendations to the Standing Committee for Citizenship and Immigration

OTTAWA, ON (February 1, 2021) – ACHK has submitted policy recommendations to the Standing Committee for Citizenship and Immigration.

Immigration and Refugee Measures for the People of Hong Kong
Written Submission to the Standing Committee of Citizenship and Immigration (CIMM)

Writers:
Alliance Canada Hong Kong
ACHK Government Relations Team
ACHK Research Team
Robert Falconer, Advisor

The paper is available for download here.

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Statement on 50+ Hong Kong Democrats Arrested for Subversion in Election Primaries

OTTAWA, ON (January 6, 2021) – The arrests of over 50 democracy activists in Hong Kong today demonstrates Beijing’s determination to destroy any remnants of Hong Kong’s autonomy. The message is clear: Beijing will not tolerate one ounce of dissent.

Hong Kong rang in 2021 with over 50 Hong Kong pro-democratic candidates, organizers, and affiliates of the primary elections arrested on alleged violations of the national security law (NSL), specifically on charges of subversion of the state.

On January 4th, Chief Executive Carrie Lam stated that Beijing’s criticism of Hong Kong’s judiciary system was an exercise of freedom of speech. Evidently, this freedom of speech does not extend to criticisms of Beijing as demonstrated by today’s arrests. The alarming fact is that Hong Kong’s judiciary, the last mantle of rule of law, is under grave threat. The Hong Kong government hopes to dismantle and replace it with a system willing to do the Chinese regime’s bidding.

ACHK is appalled by the complicity of democratic nations. We strongly condemn these politically-driven arrests and call for the Canadian government to act.

ACHK urgently demands the Government of Canada and allied democratic nations to:

  1. Immediately invoke sanctions against human rights offenders in Hong Kong and China and those responsible for the erosion of Hong Kong’s autonomy
  2. Reform Canada’s foreign policy on the Chinese Communist Party and the People’s Republic of China — including domestic policy changes that prioritizes the protection of Canadians’ fundamental freedom from erosion, and proactively combat and investigate Chinese Communist Party interference in Canadian society and combat foreign interference into Canadian institutions
  3. Create asylum pathways to help Hong Kongers flee mass detention, torture, and persecution, and demand amnesty for all Hong Kongers who were arrested, charged, and imprisoned for political dissidence


ACHK supports and welcomes Taiwanese, Tibetan, Uyghur, Chinese, and other communities who are suffering from persecution by the Chinese Communist Party. ACHK stands in solidarity with Indigenous and marginalized communities both within Canada and abroad. alliancecanadahk.com | [email protected]

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ACHK Testifies at the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration

On November 16, 2020, ACHK testified in front of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration about the impact of COVID-19 on Canada’s immigration system.

The full video of the day’s testimonies is available on parliament’s website here.

Transcript of Robert’s Testimony:

Thank you to the committee for inviting me. It’s an honour and a pleasure to present with Starus and Alliance Canada Hong Kong.

The topic of today actually goes along with Mr. Shory, about the idea of timeliness and flexibility when it comes to the processing of applications for refugee claimants, immigrants and others. While we do come here as a group that’s focused on Hong Kongers, the recommendations we make would be very similar, and would broadly impact the larger immigrant and refugee community.

Historically, our immigration system has not been very flexible. Since 2000, we’ve had three periods where large numbers of claims were made in Canada, and each time it has taken several years for the Immigration and Refugee Board to catch up and process those claims. This is, by the way, the same with the most recent rise in refugee numbers since about 2016, and still our system continues to try to catch up.

With the advent of COVID-19, the faults in the processing pipeline, as it were, continue to have real human impacts. I was looking at some data today, and it was quite apparent that since March 2020, about 44% of all refugee claims have been referred to the IRB for a hearing date. That’s in comparison to [Technical difficulty—Editor] per cent in the same period last year. While we can certainly understand why the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic would exacerbate the ability to process and refer refugee claims, we have to understand there are human lives in the mix here. They are unable to access work permits, attain status in Canada and access social services. They are all impacted by those wait times.

Likewise, it prevents … especially the provinces, which, rightfully so, have to … lives of refugee claimants while their claims are being processed.

In addition to this, international students have found it very difficult to make the transition from graduation into the Canadian economic immigration system. Graduates of an education program will find that … study in Canada to excel academically and to find work afterwards, through no fault of their own but only because of the economic circumstances that surround them, they will be unable to gain the points necessary to qualify for the economic immigration system.

With that, we would like to make several recommendations.

The first would be that Canada develop a five-year post-graduate work permit, similar to the Australian model that was adopted for Hong Kongers. This would allow international students in Canada, who have graduated from our system, more time to gain work experience in Canada.

The second, for those who are fleeing or who are here from countries with oppressive regimes, as in the situation in Hong Kong right now, is to provide them more safety in Canada, and if need be, access to the refugee claim system.

Finally, it would be the transition to an interim visa program. Right now, refugee claimants, students or workers who are transitioning out of one permit to another whose permit expires in the meantime…on an implied status that is … many employers … students and workers themselves. The new … offers an interim visa program that, immediately upon applying for an extension or a change of status in the visa, issues them an interim visa that would last until the government gets back to them with their new work, study or visitor permit.

In addition, … into our immigration and refugee system would pay dividends both in humanitarian … as well as to the management of our immigration and refugee system.

The … aspect will be presented by my associate, Starus. The delays in the processing of work permits, study permits, and refugee claim referrals have a real impact, causing stress, financial difficulties, and inability to access social services.

I’ll pass the time over to Starus.

Transcript of Starus’s Testimony:

Thank you for letting me speak here today.

I am an international student from Hong Kong and also a student activist for the democratic movement. Today, I am here to speak about my experience.

We all know that Hong Kong is not safe for student activists anymore. However, here in Canada, Tibetans, Uyghurs, and Hong Kong student activists are being intimidated and harassed by pro-Beijing supporters. We worry our activism is documented and it might lead to potential persecution for us and our families. I sincerely hope that the government will implement immigration and asylum measures as soon as possible. It is stressful for international students and their families to tackle COVID-19, Canada’s immigration system, and also worry about their safety at the same time.

I wanted to go back to Hong Kong before COVID, but I was wary of the potential travel restrictions. Even right now, many international students are stuck in Hong Kong.

As so many international students have already spoken up about, there is a lack of clear information about immigration rules and policies – and as migrants, when we miss deadlines, the consequences are very serious.

For example, I was required to apply for additional co-op visas to meet the requirements of a post graduate work permit, known as PGWP. This is the case for so many other international students across this country. However, the IRCC’s website is not clear. We need clear guidelines from IRCC, but also we need to ensure everyone’s immigration status will not be punished for the system’s failings during COVID.

As a Hong Kong student, I benefit from the new measure. However I want to advocate for other international students, who are also impacted by COVID, and may face deportation. I urge the committee to make the post-graduate work permit, renewable & to ensure real access to permanent residency for international students.

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ACHK Submits Recommendations to the Standing Committee for Citizenship and Immigration

OTTAWA, ON (Novmeber 16, 2020) – ACHK has submitted recommendations to the Standing Committee for Citizenship and Immigration.

The Impact of COVID-19 on Canada’s Immigration & Asylum Systems
Written Submission to the Standing Committee of Citizenship and Immigration (CIMM)

Writers:
Alliance Canada Hong Kong
ACHK Government Relations Team
Robert Falconer, Advisor

The paper is available for download here.