Thank you very much, Mr. Chair, for having us this afternoon.
As mentioned before, apart from being a director of TADC, I'm also a lawyer and the clinic director of the Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic, where we provide free legal services to low-income clients, including many refugees from China.
As we speak, the crackdown on pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong is happening right before our eyes. The arrest of Jimmy Lai confirms that no amount of fame and fortune can protect anyone who dares to speak out against China's dictatorial regime.
With over 300,000 Canadians living in Hong Kong, and several hundred thousand more Canadians of Hong Kong origin living in Canada, the Canadian government has not only a moral duty to act, but also a legal obligation to protect our citizens and their close family members in Hong Kong.
Since the Second World War, there have been many examples of Canada granting status to large groups of people fleeing political persecution and civil war.
While the flame of democracy is being suppressed, Hong Kong is burning. Although we may not be able to extinguish the raging fire, we must do what we can to contain its damage and save as many lives as possible.
To that end, we're calling on Canada to take the following actions.
First, Canada should expedite family sponsorship applications by Canadians for their families in Hong Kong, including spousal sponsorship and sponsorship for parents and grandparents. Canada should also expand the family class program to facilitate reunification of Canadians with other family members in Hong Kong.
Second, as soon as the travel ban is lifted, Canada should issue more temporary resident permits or work visas to Hong Kongers, as well as student visas to young people who want to continue to pursue their studies in a safe environment.
Third, we should create a special program to grant permanent resident status to the Hong Kong activists involved in the pro-democracy movement who are already in Canada, similar to the special program created for the thousands of Chinese nationals present in Canada after the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre.
Finally, for those activists who have been arrested or are in imminent danger of arrest, we should direct the Canadian consulate in Hong Kong to issue temporary resident permits and travel documents to facilitate their safe and immediate exit from Hong Kong should they choose to leave. Upon their arrival in Canada, we should provide them with protected person status or permanent resident status.
Hong Kong people have stood up against a powerful authoritarian regime to safeguard the core values of democracy and freedom of expression. It's incumbent upon all of us as Canadians to provide meaningful support.