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The Department of Foreign Affairs announced on Monday that they have drafted plans to evacuate 300,000 Canadian citizens from Hong Kong in case of further crackdown by the Communist Party of China, Blacklocks Reporter reports.
According to the Canadian Consul General in Hong Kong Jeff Nankivell, the likelihood of an evacuation scenario at the moment is "very, very low" but that it is the job of the government to "plan for the most extreme situations.”
The Chinese government is one of the most repressive governments existing today. In June of this year, the Chinese government passed a law over Hong Kong banning “any dangerous activity which seriously jeopardizes public health, safety or security,” which critics say is intentionally vague and allows for the Communist Party to arbitrarily detain any Hong Kong activist who criticizes the Chinese government. The law, initially proposed in 2019, provoked widespread protests across Hong Kong. The Chinese government responded with a brutal crackdown during which they arrested and charged multiple organizers.
It is unknown exactly how many Canadians there are in Hong Kong, with the 300,000 number being an estimate based on a survey conducted a decade ago by the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada, according to Nankivell. “It’s not based on the number of Canadians who are registered with us. Only a fraction of Canadians who go abroad register with us,” he said before the Special Commons Committee on Canada-China relations.
Nankivell was asked by the special committee about the nature of Canadian citizens in Hong Kong. “In the five-year period from 2012 to 2017, the number of Canadians renewing their passport was about twenty percent higher,” Nankivell explained. “The vast majority, some 83 percent, are dual citizens.”
As a special administrative region of China, Hong Kong does not have its own standard of citizenship. It does, however, issue its own passports to those who have the right of permanent residency there, which does not grant the immediate right to permanent residency within China, nor does it allow Chinese citizens to move to Hong Kong. Recognizing this distinction, Nankivell explained that the individuals he is speaking of “are residents of Hong Kong and citizens of Canada.”
“We do have detailed plans in place and we have resources available and identified to cover a range of situations up to and including a situation where the urgent departure of a large number of Canadians would be necessary,” Nankivell told the committee. He did not go into detail of the nature of these plans.
Nankivell did not disclose how much such a mass-evacuation would cost. According to a 2007 report from the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, the evacuation of nearly 15,000 Canadians from Lebanon during the 2006 Lebanon War costed the government $75.8 million. It is likely that such an evacuation of Hong Kong would be far more expensive given the larger number of residents and the hostile nature of the Chinese government.
The Canadian government warns its citizens who travel to Hong Kong to exhibit a "high degree of caution" due to the threat of "arbitrary enforcement of local laws and civil unrest."