OTTAWA, Ontario (AP) — The Chinese ambassador to Canada warned the Trudeau government on Thursday not to grant asylum to Hong Kong residents fleeing a widely criticized national security law imposed by Beijing.
Ambassador Cong Peiwu branded pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong as violent criminals and said if Canada grants them asylum that amounts to interference in China’s internal affairs.
Protests against the Hong Kong and mainland Chinese governments swelled last year, and Beijing clamped down on expressions of anti-government sentiment in the city with a new national security law that took effect June 30.
The law outlaws subversive, secessionist, and terrorist activity, as well as collusion with foreign powers to interfere in the city’s internal affairs. The U.S., Britain and Canada accuse China of infringing on the city’s freedoms.
“If the Canadian side really cares about the stability and the prosperity in Hong Kong, and really cares about the good health and safety of those 300,000 Canadian passport-holders in Hong Kong, and the large number of Canadian companies operating in Hong Kong SAR, you should support those efforts to fight violent crimes,” Cong said.
Cherie Wong, the executive director of Alliance Canada Hong Kong, said Cong’s comment is a “direct threat” to all Canadians.
“Their actions are the reason that many Hong Kongers are seeking asylum in Canada, because they no longer feel safe in Hong Kong or their human rights will be protected in Hong Kong under control of the new National Security Law,” she said in a statement.
“It should not be lost on Canadians living in Hong Kong or China, they could be next. Ambassador Cong suggested so himself.”
Cong also flatly rejected Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s assertion that China is engaging in coercive diplomacy by imprisoning two Canadian men in retaliation for the arrest of a Chinese Huawei executive on an American extradition warrant. Meng Wanzhou is living under house arrest in Vancouver while her case wends through a British Columbia court.
In December 2018, China imprisoned two Canadian men, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, and charged them with undermining the country’s national security.