Canada Has a Large Chinese Diaspora, But It is Not Growing as Expected

For Hua Yong, there was no option but to leave China.

“Because of my works of art, I was put in jail all these years and persecuted by the government. So, I had no choice but to leave my homeland,” said Hua.

The Beijing artist uses his work and social media to document and highlight the suffering of Chinese citizens.

He says Chinese authorities threatened and arrested him multiple times and forced him into a “re-education through labor” program for 15 months. He is now seeking asylum in Canada.

Canada has large immigrant communities, including in Vancouver where about 20% of the population is of Chinese descent. Many came here for educational and economic opportunities. But others, like Hua, moved to Canada in search of political refuge.

“In reality, even though people are from China, I feel we don’t have human rights there (in China),” said Hua.

Critics say China has become more heavy-handed in recent years on the mainland and in Hong Kong.

In 2020, China imposed a new national security law targeting people who it says are responsible for acts of subversion or terrorism, limiting speech and the ability to gather.

Beijing state media claim the new law is needed to protect the people after months of violent pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.

In response to the law, Canada created a work permit and two new pathways to permanent residency for Hong Kong residents.

Immigration consultants have seen a surge of interest from Hong Kong residents wanting to leave the territory for Canada.

While the Canadian government has made it easier for Hong Kong residents to move there, Canada has yet to see a surge in new immigrants from Hong Kong.

Canada received more than 3,000 applications for various visas from Hong Kongers in the first quarter of the program.

In contrast, an estimated 335,000 Hong Kongers moved to Canada before the British government handed over its former colony to China in 1997.

“The expected tsunami of applications from Hong Kong to Canada in any category, including citizenship categories, just not there,” said Richard Kurland, an immigration lawyer. “And that means that there’s no rush.”

One likely reason is that many Hong Kongers still living in the territory already have Canadian passports and can return to Canada at any time.

While there may not be a tide of people migrating to Canada yet, Reuters reports Hong Kong residents moved record levels of capital to Canada, surpassing $40 billion last year.

“I feel very safe here. It’s a heaven for freedom,” says Hua. “You can have free speech.”

One reason why Hua and people from Hong Kong choose to live in and be citizens of Canada.

“Because of my works of art, I was put in jail all these years and persecuted by the government. So, I had no choice but to leave my homeland.”

Hua Yong, seeking asylum in Canada


WRITER: Jesusemen OniVIDEOGRAPHER:  Bart VandeverVIDEO EDITOR:  Marcus Harton Post-production coordinator: Marcus Harton

About this series

From 2010-2020, U.N. Refugee Agency reported a consistent increase in the number of asylum-seekers from China totaling more than 630,000 people. Separately, the number of asylum-seekers from Hong Kong jumped dramatically, from 22 in 2018 to a record 487 people in 2020, despite the coronavirus pandemic. Asylum-seekers are just one part of the China exodus story, as people from China and Hong Kong emigrate in other ways, as well. This project examines why people left and where they have resettled.