Rights of 300,000 Canadians At Risk as Hong Kong Cracks Down on Dual Citizenship

January 28, 2021 Updated: January 28, 2021

Canada is growing more concerned about the rights and safety of 300,000 Canadians citizens living in Hong Kong, following reports of the territory’s crackdown on dual citizenship.

The People’s Republic of China (PRC) does not recognize dual citizenship under its Nationality Law, and it is now looking at enforcing the regulation in Hong Kong. Chinese nationals who hold Canadian passports are considered only as Chinese citizens, and are not entitled to Canadian consular protection unless they declare a change of nationality. But once making the change, they risk losing the rights to live and work in the territory.

After Hong Kong was returned to Chinese rule, the former British colony enjoyed relative autonomy under the constitutional principal “One country, two systems.” But Beijing has been tightening its grip on the territory, particularly with the draconian national security law took effect on June 30, 2020.

“This is another important development potentially because it looks as if China is now applying its citizenship law to Hong Kong and forcing people to declare who they are,” Guy Saint-Jacques, the former Canadian ambassador to China, told the National Post, which first reported the Hong Kong government’s plan to remove dual citizenship.

“This is another important development potentially because it looks as if China is now applying its citizenship law to Hong Kong and forcing people to declare who they are,” said Guy Saint-Jacques. “It is something that will have to be watched.”

The potential impacts of this regulation can be drawn from the case of Sun Qian, a Chinese-Canadian who was sentenced to eight years in prison for her practice of Falun Gong, a Buddhist cultivation.

The Epoch Times reported that Sun has renounced her Canadian citizenship under suspected torture.

“The Canadian government should still see her as a Canadian citizen, should call for her immediate release, and for the Chinese authorities to cease and desist from all forms of torture and abuse,” former Liberal justice minister Irwin Cotler said in an earlier interview.

On Nov. 12, 2020, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) announced measures to support Hong Kong residents to come to Canada.

However, these new measures offer limited pathways for Hong Kong youth to apply for study or work permits, and later for permanent residence.

The Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration heard suggestions to broaden the pathway to allow more Hong Kong residents to come to Canada during a Jan. 27 committee meeting.

MP Raquel Dancho said pathways offered by the Canadian government is mostly limited to people who “will make Canada the most money when they come here,” and yet “ignoring all these blue-collar workers.”

“They are saying that you [Hong Kong residents] can come here as students, and that’s true, but then when you come here as students, they expect you to pay the international student tuition fees, which I am sure a lot of these individuals, including some who were 12 or 13 year-old when they were arrested last year [by Chinese authorities], may not have money to do so,” Avvy Yao-Yao Go, director of Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic, said at the committee hearing. “That option is just not open to them.”

“It’s important that we recognize that if these are activists—the reason why they leave Hong Kong is because of their political beliefs—then we should just treat them as people who are almost like asylum seekers,” she said.

Dancho said the major developments that jeopardize the rights of Hong Kong residents calls for an amendment to the report by the sub-committee, but the Liberal MPs voted to delay the debate until Feb. 1.