Rachel Wong | Hong Kong Free Press

Canada has eased visa rules for young Hongkongers in a show of solidarity with the city, citing Beijing’s disregard for the Basic Law, the ousting of four pro-democracy lawmakers and sweeping new national security legislation.

Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Marco Mendicino announced on Thursday that Hongkongers who graduated from universities outside Canada in the past five years can apply for a work visa valid for up to three years.

The graduates, as well as people with work experience needed in Canada, can apply for permanent residency status after working for one year and meeting language requirements.

“As daily lives for Hongkongers continue to unfold under a cloud of uncertainty, we have a unique opportunity to appeal to the hopes and aspirations of those who may well be casting their eyes abroad and looking at Canada as a place to live, work and settle, as generations had before them,” he said.

Mendicino also said Canada welcomed the 300,000 Canadian passport holders living in Hong Kong to return to the country with their families at any time and would fast-track the processing of necessary documents.

The minister said Canada was concerned about the passage in June of the security law and also cited the ousting of four democrats from the Hong Kong legislature on Wednesday. “We have unequivocally stated that this legislation and the unilateral powers within it are in direct conflict with China’s international obligations and undermine the One Country, Two Systems framework,” he said.

“Actions such as these demonstrate a clear disregard for the Basic Law and are having a consequential effect of eroding human rights in Hong Kong. In this time of trial, Canada will stand in solidarity with the people of Hong Kong.”

The Standing Committee of China’s National People’s Congress passed a resolution on Wednesday which stated that lawmakers who promoted or supported Hong Kong independence and refused to accept China’s sovereignty over the city should be considered in breach of their oath of allegiance. The ousting of the four prompted 15 other democrats to resign, leaving the chamber with no effective opposition.

Last month China’s ambassador to Canada Cong Peiwu warned Ottawa not to offer political asylum to Hong Kong protesters, saying this would amount to interference in China’s internal affairs.

“If Canada is truly concerned about the well-being and safety of the 300,000 Canadian passport holders and Canadian enterprises operating in Hong Kong, they should support China’s effort in cracking down on terrorism,” Cong said.

Mendicino said no one would be banned from Canada solely because they have been charged under the national security law.

Following the enactment of the national security legislation that criminalises subversion, secession, terrorism and colluding with foreign forces, Ottawa axed its extradition treaty with Hong Kong and stopped the export of sensitive military items to the city.