From Hong Kong to Brossard, 25 years after the handover

Benny Ho is one of 4,130 Hong Kong immigrants accepted by Canada between 2020 and March 2022

Posted at 5:00 am

Frederik Xavier Duhamel

Frederik Xavier Duhamel
The press

Canada has welcomed more immigrants from Hong Kong after the passage of the national security law in 2020, thanks in particular to a no-Quebec migration policy. To mark the 25th anniversary of the former British colony’s return to China, The press spoke to a newcomer about his reasons for leaving and the challenges he faced.

Most Hong Kong immigrants to Canada settle in Ontario or British Columbia, but Benny Ho and his family chose Quebec. “Our original plan was to go to Toronto, Ontario, but my sister lives in Montreal so she was able to offer us a lot of support,” said Mr. Ho, 55, who moved to Brossard with his wife and daughter last spring .

They are among around 790 Hong Kong immigrants who arrived in Canada between January and March 2022. After falling from 1,540 immigrants in 2019 to 1,045 in 2020, no fewer than 2,295 Hong Kongers have settled in the country in 2021, d’according to the federal government – including just 70 in Quebec.

New challenges here

Mr. Ho used to be a social worker in Hong Kong, but the language barrier is preventing him from doing this job here for the time being. “I have to learn a little French first. I’ll be taking a course in July,” he said. The family man now works as a kitchen hand in a restaurant. “I have to earn a living,” he sighs.

Canada has eased the arrival of immigrants from Hong Kong in 2021 with open work permits for recent graduates and two new permanent residency routes created in response to the national security enactment.

However, these new avenues to permanent residency exclude Quebec, meaning Mr. Ho and his family must leave the province to obtain that status.

“It’s a very difficult thing for us because we have parents here, we started settling here,” he regrets. “My daughter wants to learn French but she will have to leave us in maybe a year or two if we want to apply for permanent residence. »


Benny Ho and his daughter

When asked why Quebec is excluded, the Ministry of Immigration, Franciscans and Integration states that “Quebec, which is solely responsible for the selection of foreigners destined for its territory in the category of economic migration, does not participate [politique] due to the small number of target individuals and the fact that they already have avenues for permanent immigration to Quebec, specifically the Quebec Experience Program and the Regular Skilled Worker Program”.

“Not like Hong Kong before”

Mainly because of “political instability,” Mr. Ho left the territory. “Hong Kong changed a lot after 1997 and in recent years the government has had much more control over its people,” he said. “It’s not like Hong Kong used to be, we don’t have freedom of speech, we don’t have universal suffrage, we don’t have the right to elect our government. »

1ah In July 1997, the former colony became a semi-autonomous region based on the “one country, two systems” principle. But mainland China has since tightened its grip on the territory, flouting previously recognized fundamental rights. This crackdown culminated in the passage of a national security law on June 30, 2020 aimed at silencing dissidents.

By settling here, Mr. Ho and his wife also wanted their daughter to have a better education. “The education system in Hong Kong has changed a lot,” he says. The Chinese government is trying to enforce a lot of rules and I’m afraid there is some kind of brainwashing going on. »

According to figures released in August 2021, Hong Kong’s population fell by 1.2% in one year to 7.3 million people, the largest decline since such data was collected in 1961.

For the government, these exits are “normal” as outgoing PM Carrie Lam accuses other countries of “covering up their talent searches” under a political pretext. His successor, John Lee, warned that emigrants would miss out on future prospects if they left the country.

With Agence France-Presse

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