Vancouver could be facing a new wave of immigration from Hong Kong amid growing discontent since Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying took office, according to a democracy activist based in the Lower Mainland.
Henry Chau, chairman of the Vancouver Society in Support of Democratic Movement, said Hongkongers increasingly felt they were being pushed out of their own city by mainlanders and that they were looking for alternatives, reported the South China Morning Post.
However, Labour Party lawmaker Cyd Ho Sau-lan believes that although the pan-democratic camp has issues with the chief executive and his government, Chau has no hard facts to back up his claims, the paper said.
Tens of thousands of Hongkongers moved to Vancouver before the handover in 1997, but in recent years the tide has reversed.
Chau said: “I have many friends from Hong Kong, and all have a grim view for the future of Hong Kong. It is not the Hong Kong of 10 years ago. They now feel like there is no room for them anymore.”
Chau said anecdotal evidence suggested that many returnees - Hongkongers who migrated to Canada but then returned to Hong Kong after the handover - were now going back to Vancouver, dissatisfied by changes in the city of their birth. He said that such movements would be difficult to chart, because the returnees were Canadian dual citizens who did not show up on records as new immigrants.
“But when, for instance, we talk to our family doctor, we hear about people who have been away [in Hong Kong] for many years who are now coming back [to Vancouver],” Chau said.
“C. Y. coming to office has accelerated the discontent and the frustration,” he said. “But people understand that C.Y. himself is not the underlying problem. People are frustrated because they have no control over their fate.”
However, Ho said: “It’s hard to justify what he is claiming without concrete facts and figures. It’s not hard to substantiate a claim if you have this information, but Mr Chau does not seem to have this.”
Ho said it was only when substantial facts and figures were provided by Canada’s Immigration Department that Chau’s claims could be taken seriously.
“He is just giving an opinion - nothing else,” Ho said. “Until he can back this up with hard facts, it means nothing. I would be suspicious of what he has to say until he can.”
The Vancouver Sun reported recently most Hong Kong residents immigrated to Canada in the decade before 1997, when the city of seven million residents officially became a “special administrative region” of the People’s Republic of China.
After 1997, when emigrants recognized China’s authoritarian regime was not imposing excessively Draconian restrictions on Hong Kong, many who had obtained Canadian passports began streaming back.
Statistics Canada’s numbers tell the tale. Despite Canada’s rapid population growth in the past 15 years, there are now 32,000 fewer Hong Kong-born residents in Canada than there were in 1996.
The 2011 National Household Survey, released last week, shows 209,000 Hong Kong-born residents in Canada (about one third of them living in Metro Vancouver). That compares to 241,000 who lived here in 1996.
Their total numbers in Canada have been dropping despite 1,000 to 2,000 new Hong Kong immigrants a year continuing to trickle in. Even accounting for deaths, it is clear that thousands of Hong Kong citizens each year have been leaving Canada.
Hong Kong now contains more than 350,000 residents holding Canadian citizenship, according to Vancouver lawyer Richard Kurland, editor-in-chief of Lexbase, a widely read publication on immigration policy.