27 October 2016
'Should all Canadians not be treated the same?' Jenny Kwan says. Photo: CBC
'Should all Canadians not be treated the same?' Jenny Kwan says. Photo: CBC

Canada queries China about visa curbs on HK-born Canadians

Canada is pressing China over media reports that authorities are no longer allowing some Canadian citizens born in Hong Kong to visit the mainland on 10-year visas, the foreign ministry in Ottawa said Tuesday.

Chinese-language media say that since early this month, Hong Kong-born first-generation Canadians have been told they can apply to travel to mainland China only as Chinese nationals.

Previously, they could choose to travel as nationals of either Canada or China, Reuters reports.

If true, the changes could be seen as an encroachment on Hong Kong’s autonomy under the principle of “one country, two systems”.

“Canada is aware of recent reports of challenges for Canadian-Chinese dual citizens in obtaining visas to visit China from Hong Kong,” said Felix Corriveau, a spokesman for Immigration Minister John McCallum.

“We are looking into the issue and are following up with the Chinese authorities.”

The issue is sensitive in Canada, where the population of 36 million includes more than a million people of Chinese descent.

Many Hong Kong residents emigrated to Canada and took up citizenship before and after the city’s return to China.

The Chinese Embassy in Ottawa has not received any notification of changes to the visa policy, a spokesman said in an emailed statement.

Canadian member of Parliament Jenny Kwan Wai-ching, who was born in Hong Kong, told reporters Tuesday she wrote to Foreign Minister Stephane Dion urging him to look into the visa situation.

Kwan is a member of the opposition New Democrats.

“The change in practice should be of grave concern to Canadians; after all, a Canadian is a Canadian. As such, should all Canadians not be treated the same?” Kwan said.

Corriveau said that under a 2015 agreement, China had the ability to issue long-term multiple-entry visas to visiting Canadians.

“The arrangement, however, is non-binding,” he said.

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