Evidence of meeting #11 for Canada-China Relations in the 43rd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was kong.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Michael C. Davis  Professor, Weatherhead East Asia Institute, Woodrow Wilson International Center, Columbia University
Benedict Rogers  Co-founder and Chair, Hong Kong Watch
Cheuk Kwan  Immediate Past Chair, Toronto Association for Democracy in China
Avvy Yao-Yao Go  Barrister and Solicitor, Board Member, Toronto Association for Democracy in China and Clinic Director, Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic
Annie Boyajian  Director of Advocacy, Freedom House
Samuel M. Chu  Founding and Managing Director, Hong Kong Democracy Council
Jerome A. Cohen  Professor and Faculty Director Emeritus, U.S.-Asia Law Institute, New York University School of Law

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Geoff Regan

I call this meeting to order. Welcome to meeting number 11 of the House of Commons Special Committee on Canada-China Relations. Pursuant to the order of reference of July 20, 2020, the committee is meeting on its study on Canada—China Relations.

Today's meeting is taking place by video conference.

Here are a few rules to make sure that the meeting proceeds well.

Interpretation in this video conference will work much like in a regular committee meeting. You have the choice, at the bottom of your screen, of either Floor, English or French. As you are speaking, if you plan to alternate from one language to the other, you will need to also switch the interpretation channel so that it aligns with the language you are speaking. You may want to allow for a short pause when switching languages.

Before speaking, wait until I recognize you by name. When you are ready to speak, you can click on the microphone icon to activate your mike. A reminder to members and witnesses that all their comments should be addressed through the Chair.

If members wish to speak outside the time they are given for questions, they should activate their microphone and indicate that they wish to raise a point of order. If members want to comment on points of order raised by other members, they must use the “raise hand” function to indicate to the Chair that they want to speak. To do so, you must click on “participants” at the bottom of the screen. When the list appears beside your name, you will see an option allowing you to raise your hand.

Please speak slowly and clearly. When you are not speaking, set your microphone to mute. Headsets are strongly recommended.

Before we get started, can everyone click on the top right-hand corner of their screen and ensure that they are on gallery view? With this view you should be able to see all the participants in a grid view, ensuring that all video participants can see one another. As is the case during in-person meetings, the public will only see the participant who is speaking.

It is now my pleasure to welcome our first panel of witnesses. From Columbia University we have Michael C. Davis, professor, Weatherhead East Asia Institute, Woodrow Wilson International Center.

11:10 a.m.

Bloc

Stéphane Bergeron Bloc Montarville, QC

If I may, Mr. Chair—

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Geoff Regan

Is there a problem, Mr. Bergeron?

11:10 a.m.

Bloc

Stéphane Bergeron Bloc Montarville, QC

Yes, Mr. Chair. Well, no, there is no problem, but I want to prevent one.

You may remember that, at the last meeting, there was a problem with the interpretation because witnesses had not chosen the appropriate language and were set to the floor channel. Consequently, there was no interpretation and that caused a problem in my final round of questions. I just want you to make sure that the witnesses know that, when we speak to them in French, they must click on the English channel to be sure that they have the interpretation. That will prevent the same problem we had last time.

Thank you for your indulgence, Mr. Chair.

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Geoff Regan

Not at all, Mr. Bergeron. That is helpful and important advice for us.

I imagine that all the witnesses clearly heard the interpretation and understand what they have to do when their turn comes.

From Hong Kong Watch we have Benedict Rogers, co-founder and chair. From the Toronto Association for Democracy in China, we have Cheuk Kwan, the immediate past chair, and Avvy Yao-Yao Go, board member, barrister and solicitor, clinic director, Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic.

Each witness or organization will have seven to 10 minutes to make an opening statement, followed by a round of questions from the members. I just want to make it clear to the witnesses that once a member has started to ask you questions, I'm asking the members to indicate who they would like to respond, or in which order they would like you to respond, because I think that will save us time. Once one of the members in their period for questions has asked you to comment, you don't need to wait for me to call on you.

We'll start if we may with Professor Davis for up to 10 minutes. Please proceed.

11:10 a.m.

Michael C. Davis Professor, Weatherhead East Asia Institute, Woodrow Wilson International Center, Columbia University

Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you to the committee for inviting me. I hope I am heard okay.

I should note that in addition to being a U.S. scholar nowadays, I spent 30 years in Hong Kong as a professor of constitutional law and human rights, and I continue to teach there. I'll be teaching two human rights courses via Zoom this fall, so I am very much involved. I have been a public intellectual in Hong Kong throughout these many years.

What I want to talk about, as the constitutional lawyer who is starting this testimony, is about the rule of law and the national security law that's now been imposed on Hong Kong.

There are a number of questions about this law. The law itself seems to have a status as high as that of the Basic Law of Hong Kong; in fact, I would say it's higher, because under Chinese national law and legislation, the last law enacted—as is common in many countries—takes precedence over any conflicts with previous laws. The Basic Law of Hong Kong is an older law; it's more general, and the national security law is more specific.

The way it was enacted already imposed something on Hong Kong in a very offensive way. None of the law was leaked to the public until the day it was promulgated. We were told that even the chief executive did not know what was in the law. Contrary to China's own national law and legislation and Hong Kong's practice, there was no consultation with the public. This law was just imposed on Hong Kong.

The national security law, on its face, says that it's superior to all local laws. I would argue that it effectively includes the Basic Law of Hong Kong, which is the foundation of rights protection in Hong Kong.

The national security law says explicitly that the courts cannot really review it. It's not subject to constitutional review, and it's not subject to review under the Basic Law, so if a judge receives this law in court, he has to pretty much apply it, and the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress has the ultimate power to interpret it. The idea that the courts would stand as a guardian to protect us is not there in Hong Kong—and I can say I am a resident of Hong Kong, so I would refer to it as “us”. In Hong Kong we will have no opportunity to challenge some of the provisions in this law on subversion, sedition, collusion with foreign governments and so on, if this matter is brought to court.

There is an interesting twist in the law. It provides that only selected judges on a list can hear cases under the national security law, and the chief executive of Hong Kong is to construct that list. If a judge is on that list and he hears cases, if he acts or makes statements in any way that violate national security, then that judge will be dismissed from hearing such cases.

One of the ways that Hong Kong was to preserve the rule of law in the face of the mainland system, where they really don't have the rule of law, was that foreign judges, including Canadian ones, sit on Hong Kong courts. They will not be sitting on these national security cases because they will not be on the list of judges chosen by the chief executive of Hong Kong, so presumably the choice would be influenced by the expectation of how those judges would behave.

Given all of this pressure on judges, one wonders what they would do if they're confronted with statements from the foreign ministry in Beijing or from mainland officials now appointed in Hong Kong saying how they think a case should be treated.

We don't have to guess at this. Just this week, Jimmy Lai, the publisher of the Apple Daily, was arrested. While the Hong Kong officials referred to him as a “suspect”, he was suspected of collusion, apparently because he provided funding for an organization much like some of the organizations that are represented in testimony today that lobby foreign governments—usually overseas Hong Kong actors.

We don't know for sure because the enforcement of this law is done secretly, so we have a kind of secret police going on now. But presumably the word on the street, as it were, is that he funded an organization called Stand with Hong Kong. We'll see if that proves to be the case.

Interestingly, the foreign ministry immediately insulted him and said he represented a great threat to national security in Hong Kong; I forget the precise words. In any event, they almost prejudged the case. How will a judge react to this? If legal issues come up, knowing that the NPC can override their interpretation, how will they respond to these statements by mainland officials condemning the defendant before he is tried?

The autonomy of Hong Kong is very important. The reason autonomy was given to Hong Kong was that the mainland system is very much at odds with the Hong Kong system. In Hong Kong, as in Canada, we have the rule “of” law. In the mainland system, the common characterization is rule “by” law, where officials sort of stand above the law and take great liberties in interpreting the law.

Now the autonomy is undermined in two ways. One is that a local committee is created, headed by the chief executive, to oversee national security matters. All national security matters are under this committee locally. They would oversee what police can do. This committee has already issued regulations on how the police can behave, which enables searches without warrants, for one thing. There are judges and magistrates who can issue warrants, but those are not needed if the law enforcement officers feel there is some kind of urgency where they could go ahead and search in advance. This is one problem. Within the police, now there's a special unit on national security. Within the prosecution, there's also a special unit on national security. All of this is well lined up. The committee that oversees all of this in Hong Kong answers directly to the central people's government, so autonomy effectively goes out the window in this most sensitive area for Hong Kong's autonomy. Of course, national security is the most sensitive area.

On top of that, there's a mainland office on the safeguarding of national security that's totally staffed with mainland officials. Why they need that, I don't know, because they've also placed an adviser in the local committee. They have an adviser in the local committee who is to advise, but given that the central government is overriding the local committee, presumably that adviser can already supervise local actions. There is a separate office, and the office is totally staffed with mainland officials. People from the state security and public security branches of the mainland will staff that office. Neither the local committee nor that office is subject to review by the local courts. It expressly says in this law that the local committee is not subject to a review, and it says that local courts have no jurisdiction over that so-called office for safeguarding national security. Hong Kong's rule of law pretty much goes out the window here.

There is a long history in Hong Kong of mainland officials saying that when courts in Hong Kong have exercised constitutional review.... The mainland officials often say there is supposed to be no separation of powers in Hong Kong. The idea of the courts stepping up boldly, and challenging what mainland officials say, will be very difficult.

These are the kinds of problems that I thought were worth highlighting here, at the start of this hearing, because I'm sure that a lot of the events that bear out my concerns have occurred. I imagine other speakers will talk about them.

It's interesting to me that mainland officials in this national office, this office set up in Hong Kong, may not even be subject to any law, in a way, because under Hong Kong's Basic Law, only laws in Annex III of the Basic Law apply in Hong Kong. If a mainland official does something that violates mainland law, there will be no jurisdiction over him. In the exercise of his duties, if he violates local law, there will be no jurisdiction over him. We have a kind of secret police who have no real control over them.

I'll close with this. For Hong Kong, these things are very important, because these things are at the heart of why we have one country, two systems. The mainland officials can claim, if they want, that they're upholding one country, two systems, but the reality is that one country, two systems was to be upheld by the institutions in Hong Hong, which were separate from the mainland systems, and that separation has been totally collapsed.

I could write a long essay on human rights protections here as well, but my time is up, and I'd be happy to entertain questions.

Thank you.

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Geoff Regan

Thank you very much, Professor Davis.

Now we'll call upon Mr. Rogers from Hong Kong Watch for 10 minutes.

11:20 a.m.

Benedict Rogers Co-founder and Chair, Hong Kong Watch

Thank you, Mr. Chair and the committee.

It is a privilege to have this opportunity to speak to you today at this critical time for Hong Kong, and I want to thank you for holding this hearing.

Hong Kong has seen many dark days over the past 12 months, and Monday this week, as has already been mentioned, was among the darkest. The arrests not only of Jimmy Lai, but also of Agnes Chow and other activists, and the raid on Apple Daily’s newsroom by 200 police officers, represents yet another brazen assault on Hong Kong’s civil liberties and really the death knell for press freedom in particular.

As has already been so ably outlined by the first witness, the imposition of the draconian national security law by the National People’s Congress on July 1 has essentially destroyed Hong Kong’s autonomy. It marks the end of one country, two systems; it's placed many activists in very grave danger; and it's is a flagrant violation of the Sino-British Joint Declaration—and if you didn't already guess from my accent, I'm from the U.K. and am speaking to you from the U.K.—an international treaty lodged at the United Nations. For these reasons and also due to the extraterritorial application of the new security law—which incidentally, it is worth saying, applies to people whether they are Hong Kongers or not, whether they're inside Hong Kong or outside Hong Kong—in effect means that meetings like the one we're holding now could be in violation of Hong Kong's security law. It represents an all-out assault not only on Hong Kong’s freedoms and way of life, but also on the international rules-based order.

The subsequent disqualification of pro-democracy candidates for the Legislative Council’s elections scheduled for September, and then the postponement for a year of those very elections, disenfranchises Hong Kong people and shuts down one of the few remaining avenues they have had for some level of freedom of expression.

In effect, these events signify the total takeover of Hong Kong by the Chinese Communist Party system. As the Hong Kong Bar Association has said, the national security law undermines fundamental rights and liberties, and the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law.

Among the many human rights violations to highlight, the widespread, consistent, disproportionate and indiscriminate brutality by the Hong Kong Police over the past 12 months in particular requires particular attention.

A recent inquiry conducted by the British Parliament's All-Party Parliamentary Group on Hong Kong into violations of human rights and humanitarian principles by the Hong Kong police force found in particular that “Humanitarian aid workers have been subjected to a variety of treatment that fell short of international humanitarian law and principles, international human rights and the Sino-British Joint Declaration. Treatment aid workers were subjected to included intimidation, harassments, threats, physical violence, and arrests.”

In its recently published report, the all-party group cited the shrinking safe space for humanitarian aid workers in Hong Kong. It calls, among other steps, for the establishment of an independent mechanism to investigate the situation in Hong Kong, either through the United Nations Human Rights Council or the General Assembly or through a body such as the International Bar Association. It also calls for the imposition of Magnitsky sanctions on those responsible for permitting the excessive police violence in Hong Kong, including, but not limited to, the chief executive Carrie Lam and the police commissioner.

Let me move on to some specific recommendations for Canada, and I do so with all humility. It's not for me to sit here in Britain and tell Canada what it should do, but these are suggestions that you might like to consider perhaps, together with my own country. I really welcome Canada’s decision to suspend the extradition agreement with Hong Kong, but I believe that more could and should be done.

First, I would encourage Canada to work with other like-minded countries to establish an international contact group to coordinate a global response to this crisis. This is an idea that's been put forward by seven former British foreign secretaries. Of course, the early foundations for this have already been laid by the fact that your foreign minister has joined together with his counterparts from the U.K., Australia, New Zealand and the United States on several occasions in statements and this is very welcome. However, I think more could be done to solidify coordination among democratic nations to ensure that the response to this crisis is not simply rhetorical, nor piecemeal, but robust, rapid, unified, and as coordinated as possible.

Second, I urge Canada to impose Magnitsky-targeted sanctions on officials in the Hong Kong government and police force and the Chinese government responsible for human rights violations and this breach of an international treaty. Such sanctions would be extremely helpful because they would be targeted. We don't advocate sanctions against China or Hong Kong or the people of those two places, but on those individual officials directly responsible. I believe that the Chinese regime does not respond to rhetoric or statements. The only language they understand is pressure, and targeted sanctions would send a clear signal that they would not be allowed to get away with what they've done, with impunity.

Third, I would encourage Canada to publicly support calls for the establishment of a UN special envoy and a UN special rapporteur on human rights in Hong Kong. This proposal was advocated by at least 50 current UN special rapporteurs; several former rapporteurs; the former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights; the last governor of Hong Kong, Lord Patten; and indeed the chairs of the foreign affairs committees of your own Parliament together with the parliaments of Australia, New Zealand, and the U.K.. Shining the spotlight on Hong Kong through a monitoring and reporting mechanism at the UN would be very important in ensuring that human rights violations are not perpetrated with impunity.

Finally, I would urge Canada to again work with other countries to coordinate a lifeboat rescue package to ensure that those who do need to escape from Hong Kong are offered sanctuary and an opportunity to seek citizenship in the free world. This should only be a last resort. The objective should be to exert pressure to prevent Hong Kong deteriorating further into a situation where people need to flee, though the reality is that it is already at an extremely dangerous point. Some activists have already fled the city, and more Hong Kongers will do so in the months and years ahead, either because they are in real danger or simply because they see no future in a city that is stripped of its freedoms.

The United Kingdom, as I'm sure you're aware, has made a very generous offer to Hong Kong’s British national overseas passport holders, which is very welcome, but it leaves many of Hong Kong’s young people, especially front-line activists, unprotected, because nobody born after 1997 qualifies. Canada could help address this need in various ways.

I close by raising the question, why should any of this concern Canada?

I would say it should be for three reasons: first, because of your history, and you don’t need me to tell you about that; second, because you are a country that prides itself on the defence of freedom and human rights; and third, because the Sino-British Joint Declaration is not only an agreement between Britain and China, but an international treaty that concerns all of us who believe in the international rules-based system.

I believe the time has come for the free world to act in defence of freedom, democracy, human rights and the international rules-based order, and that action should be as strong, targeted, and united, as possible.

Thank you very much.

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Geoff Regan

Thank you very much, Mr. Rogers.

We'll now hear from the Toronto Association for Democracy in China.

Will it be Ms. Go or Mr. Kwan first?

11:30 a.m.

Cheuk Kwan Immediate Past Chair, Toronto Association for Democracy in China

I will go first.

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Geoff Regan

Please go ahead.

11:30 a.m.

Immediate Past Chair, Toronto Association for Democracy in China

Cheuk Kwan

On behalf of the Toronto Association for Democracy in China, I wish to thank the committee for this series of hearings on the situation in Hong Kong.

For too long, we believed that China would abide by international rules of engagement and diplomatic civility as far as respect for the fundamental concepts of the rule of law is concerned. This illusion has now been shattered by the arbitrary arrest of the two Michaels and the retroactive application of the national security law in Hong Kong.

For this presentation, we will focus on two areas that we as Canadians can undertake: first, how to counter China's interventions and interference and protect our Canadian interests and values; and second, what specific programs Canada should adopt to support those in Hong Kong who try to leave. I will address the first issue, and my colleague Avvy Go will address the second issue.

Since the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989, China has made a concerted effort to mask its human rights abuses and to present a positive image to advance its global ambitions. It has set up hundreds of proxy associations in Canada, many of them empty shells, to influence and interfere in Canadian political, social and cultural spheres and gain access to and influence our elected officials.

Here are four examples of this united-front strategy that Chinese consulates and their proxies have carried out.

They have held community press conferences to support the release of Meng Wanzhou, and more clumsily hired non-ethnic Chinese actors to demonstrate in order to show mainstream support for their cause. They have compelled Chinese international students to demonstrate against pro-Hong Kong rallies by threatening to withhold their government scholarships or harm their families back home if they don't comply. They have cultivated the mayor of a rural British Columbia community for years, using a quote from him praising China's response to COVID-19 on Twitter to burnish China's virus-fighting narrative. Finally, they introduced the Confucius Institute, which CSIS has deemed to be a quasi-spying agency, into an Ontario school board, by hosting a reception for its chair at Beijing's Great Hall of the People, a venue normally reserved for heads of state.

This wholesale and ongoing influence in our civil society has continued for 30 years as part of China's efforts to influence our policies and politics. To dampen or to put a stop to these efforts, we should do the following: one, be vigilant against cyber-attacks and theft of intellectual property from our corporations and research institutions; two, provide critical assessment of China's takeover of our corporations in strategic industries such as mining and energy resources, as well as institutions that are vital to our national security, such as infrastructure and nursing homes; three, support a national hotline, as proposed by Amnesty International, to coordinate and encourage the reporting of China's harassment and intimidation of our own citizens; four, establish a more stringent process to ensure transparency among current and former elected officials in their relationships with China in order to mitigate and undo foreign influence in our internal affairs; five, coordinate with like-minded allies and join the call for a UN special rapporteur on Hong Kong; and six, apply the Magnitsky Act to sanction officials from Hong Kong and China responsible for human rights violations.

Finally, and this was not in my written script, I want to share with you a news report that came in yesterday about the recent Global Affairs' contract to award a Chinese company with the installation and maintenance of x-ray scanners in our embassies around the world. Not only did two other Canadian companies offer lower bids, but the Chinese company, Nuctech, has been slapped with a five-year tariff by the EU for alleged dumping and engaging in questionable practices. Recently, the company was caught setting up a honey trap to scheme a Taiwanese official into purchasing these machines.

I will now yield my time to my colleague Avvy Go.

11:35 a.m.

Avvy Yao-Yao Go Barrister and Solicitor, Board Member, Toronto Association for Democracy in China and Clinic Director, Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic

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.

Thank you.

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Geoff Regan

Thank you very much, Mr. Kwan and Ms. Go.

We'll now proceed to questions. The first round is a six-minute round.

I will ask Mr. Genuis to proceed.

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Before I get into questions for our excellent witnesses, I have a couple of quick housekeeping thing. I want to give other committee members notice of the following motion:

That this Committee prepare a report on the situation in Hong Kong, to be tabled following the completion of hearings looking specifically at the situation in Hong Kong.

That's a notice of motion. I'm not moving it at this time. I also want to suggest to you, Mr. Chair, that in light of that notice of motion, and a motion that we previously adjourned debate on, that we consider scheduling 20 to 30 minutes to discuss these motions after the witnesses at the end of Monday's meeting. I'll put that out there for your consideration and the consideration of other members.

Now I'll go to my questions for the witnesses.

Thank you for your excellent testimony. It's important that we hear that Magnitsky sanctions are a recurring theme not only in these hearings on Hong Kong but really across the board. I really appreciated Mr. Rogers' clear statement that the Chinese regime does not respond to statements or rhetoric, but to pressure.

I want to also single out Mr. Kwan's comments on Nuctech. I think they're so important that we should take a look at what happened here from the government on this Nuctech issue. Given what we're finding out now, it looks like this is either historic stupidity, explicit corruption or maybe someone here getting caught in some kind of honey trap. It's just so bizarre that it's hard to explain any other way, and I think we really need to get to the bottom of that.

Thank you, Mr. Kwan, for your comments on that.

I want to drill further now into the immigration and lifeboat questions with Ms. Go and Mr. Rogers.

In the opposition, we've been calling on the government to have and to articulate a plan for helping Canadians who want to leave Hong Kong to be able to do so. I'm quite concerned that the Government of China could take action against Canadians living in Hong Kong. Canadians are well aware of the case of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor. One of our witnesses at the last meeting referred to the possibility of “thousands of Michaels” being used against Canada—really the escalation of hostage diplomacy on a massive scale—if efforts are made by the Chinese government to prevent Canadian citizens, citizens of other countries, and human rights defenders who might want to claim asylum from being able to leave Hong Kong. I think we've already seen efforts by the Chinese government to make it more difficult for British nationals to leave in response to the schemes put forward by the British government.

Maybe, Mr. Rogers, I'll ask you first. What efforts are we seeing by the Chinese government to prevent foreign nationals from leaving, and what should Canada do to plan for that scenario and be prepared to ensure the security of our citizens?

11:40 a.m.

Co-founder and Chair, Hong Kong Watch

Benedict Rogers

Thank you very much for that very important question.

So far, what we have seen are mostly threats by the Chinese government. I'm not aware of concrete steps yet, but certainly there's the threat to not recognize the British national overseas passport, and that obviously could cause complications for people leaving Hong Kong. So far a number of people have been able to leave and have come to the U.K. Since the security law was introduced, I think that at least 60 people—maybe more by now—are in the U.K., but there is that threat not to recognize the BNO passport.

Of course, there are all sorts of threats against British interests, British companies. They're fairly general threats at the moment, but I think we should brace ourselves for those repercussions. That is all the more reason that we—your country and my country—should be trying to help our citizens get out now while they still can.

August 13th, 2020 / 11:40 a.m.

Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Thank you very much. We're seeing threats of preventing people leaving, and it seems like there's a real risk of this kind of hostage diplomacy accelerating and growing to include more people.

I see you nodding, Mr. Rogers. Thank you for that.

Ms. Go, do you want to wade in on this same question, in terms of a lifeboat scheme? What is the likelihood of the Chinese government trying to make it more difficult for us to help people in Hong Kong get out, and what kind of countermeasures should the government be prepared to take?

11:45 a.m.

Barrister and Solicitor, Board Member, Toronto Association for Democracy in China and Clinic Director, Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic

Avvy Yao-Yao Go

For now, if you're a Canadian citizen, chances are you still will be able to get out. The problem is there are many.... For instance, there are some legislative council members in Hong Kong who gave up their Canadian citizenship status in order to run for election. I'm not sure how the Canadian government.... Whether or not we will regard them as Canadian citizens anymore is a question. Also, even if they are Canadian citizens, they may have family members who are not—either permanent residents or citizens of Hong Kong—so they may not choose to leave at this point, and it may become more difficult for them to leave in the future.

My other concern is that Canada may start to impose visa requirements on people from Hong Kong as well. Let's say you're a Canadian citizen living in Hong Kong, but you have family members in Hong Kong and you want to bring them with you to Canada. They may not be able to do so unless we have some requirements to allow them.

Right now, on top of everything else, there's also a travel ban, so unless you have family members who are a spouse and dependent children in Canada, you can't even come to Canada.

There are many layers of problems right now.

11:45 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Geoff Regan

Thank you very much, Ms. Go.

Thank you, Mr. Genuis.

We will now go on to Ms. Zann for six minutes.

11:45 a.m.

Liberal

Lenore Zann Liberal Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Thank you very much.

Thank you all so much for being here. This is a very serious issue, and it's very concerning, about democracy, really, around the world.

I watched a television interview recently with the Apple Daily founder Jimmy Lai. He had tears in his eyes as he was talking about his love for his country and also his fears about possibly being arrested, but he said he had to say what he had to say because he was dedicated to the truth and making sure that the truth gets out. My heart is with him and with his family. He said he has some family members here in Canada. I'm truly concerned for him and for all other journalists who are being arrested and who are in a state of chill right now in Hong Kong. Several other pro-democracy supporters were also arrested when he was, and the Apple Daily's offices were apparently searched by as many as 200 police officers.

My question is this: Is there any particular timing on this? Were they looking for anything in particular, do you think? How should the international community, including Canada, respond to the arrest of media representatives and student leaders in Hong Kong?

Who would like to respond to that? Would you, Mr. Davis?

11:45 a.m.

Professor, Weatherhead East Asia Institute, Woodrow Wilson International Center, Columbia University

Michael C. Davis

Yes, I'd be happy to.

I think, of course, the searching of the newsroom was a fishing expedition. I've been told that they're doing a case approach, so the case that explains a lot of the arrests so far is really important to Canada and the United States because it's the case against people who have formed organizations abroad to support Hong Kong.

One of those organizations is called Stand with Hong Kong. Another one is the Hong Kong Democracy Council. I think your hearings will include a member of that council who's already the target of an arrest warrant for basically lobbying his own Congress, the U.S. Congress. He's an American citizen, Samuel Chu, and his work with the Hong Kong Democracy Council was essentially to lobby Congress for the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act.

What we're doing right now in this hearing could wind up getting arrest warrants for all of us, because under that law, which extends globally, one of the things they target is the seeking of sanctions against China or Hong Kong by a foreign government. Lobbying to get sanctions...and the questions and answers we're having today might be interpreted accordingly, or even if we say things today that might cause people to hate China, then we also run afoul of that law. This hearing is very much in the target of that.

What I think they're doing now is using these cases, so I'm expecting more and more targeting of people who have these organizations abroad that are seeking sanctions and people who testify abroad.

Jimmy Lai was apparently a long shot in this, but he's been a target for them for many years, as they would view him as a great sinner. His only sin, apparently, was allegedly providing funding for organizations that lobby governments and parliaments such as yours.

These are things that are basic freedoms that people, even lobbying their own government, are going to be charged with, serious crimes where the punishment is three years to life in prison. This is what's going on.

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Lenore Zann Liberal Cumberland—Colchester, NS

This is for any of you. When you see the news, you see people on the streets of China interviewed, and they say, “No, this is fine. It's to protect China and to protect our society so that we're all one.” Can any of you speak to that and how the people in mainland China are receiving a certain type of news or getting mixed news? Or are they only getting state news that is telling them one thing?

11:50 a.m.

Immediate Past Chair, Toronto Association for Democracy in China

Cheuk Kwan

I will speak to that.

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Lenore Zann Liberal Cumberland—Colchester, NS

You have one minute.

11:50 a.m.

Immediate Past Chair, Toronto Association for Democracy in China

Cheuk Kwan

I believe that, as of July 1, the Hong Kong people have it worse than the Chinese citizens in mainland China. This is an anecdote, but this is something very true. In the past, I have not seen as much censorship and self-censorship imposed on Chinese citizens as we can see in Hong Kong. I think this is a grave situation that we need to worry about. In my mind, China doesn't care. China will sacrifice Hong Kong. What's six million people when Mao or Deng Xiaoping once said, “What's a million peopled killed in a famine? We have a hundred billion”, or whatever it may be.

In this case, I think the callous attitude that China has right now for Hong Kong is equivalent to what they are doing in East Turkestan, in Xinjiang, as well as in Tibet. It almost approaches a cultural genocide.