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China could keep dual citizenship Canadians from leaving Hong Kong amid protests: lawyer

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A Canadian legal activist is warning the federal government to grant asylum to democracy activists in Hong Kong and expanded settlement to those with links to Canada before China prevents them from leaving.

The warning came Monday from Avvy Go, the director of the Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic, which has already helped bring Hong Kong pro-democracy activists to Canada.

There are 300,000 Canadians of Hong Kong descent in China, and Go says if Ottawa doesn’t act now to accommodate those who want to leave, Beijing will prevent them from leaving in the future.

“The time to act is now. As China continues to crack down on the democracy movement in Hong Kong, it may soon find ways to prohibit Hong Kong activists from leaving that city, period,” Go said Monday at a joint video press conference hosted by Amnesty International.

“Even with those who are Canadian citizens, China may refuse to recognize their dual citizenship status and deny their exit from Hong Kong.”

MPs from the four major Canadian political parties and one independent senator stood in solidarity with the proposals Go put forward at a virtual press conference convened by Amnesty International.

Canada, along with the United States, Britain and Australia, have condemned Beijing’s imposition of a new national security law that they say violates Hong Kong’s freedom from Chinese communist interference.

“This is the Beijing government’s most breathtaking, threatening and callous attack yet … discarding any pretence of fulfilling China’s international promises made when Hong Kong was handed over in 1997,” said Alex Neve, the secretary general of Amnesty’s Canadian branch.

Go called on the federal government to implement several immigration and asylum measures, to help people get out of Hong Kong before it is too late. They are:

— Expediting family sponsorship applications by Canadians with spouses and parents in Hong Kong.

— Expanding family-reunification sponsorship programs beyond parents and spouses.

— Issuing more temporary-resident permits, work visas and student visas.

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