By David Ljunggren
OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canada is pressing Beijing over media reports that Chinese authorities are no longer allowing some Canadian citizens born in Hong Kong to visit China on 10-year visas, the foreign ministry said on Tuesday.
Chinese-language media say that since early June, first-generation Hong Kong-born Canadians are being told they can only apply to travel to China as Chinese nationals. Previously, they could choose to travel either as Canadian or as Chinese citizens.
If true, the changes could be seen as an encroachment on Hong Kong’s autonomy. Hong Kong has been governed as a special administrative region since its return to China from British rule in 1997, a policy known as “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. We are looking into the issue and are following up with the Chinese authorities,” said Felix Corriveau, a spokesman for Immigration Minister John McCallum.
The issue is sensitive in Canada, where a population of 36 million includes more than a million people of Chinese descent. Many Hong Kong residents emigrated to Canada and took up citizenship both 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, who was born in Hong Kong, told reporters on 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 practise should be of grave concern to Canadians, after all, a Canadian is a Canadian. As such, should all Canadians not be treated the same?” she 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 added.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, due to visit China for a week in late August to boost trade ties, has previously said Beijing must do more to protect human rights.
Earlier this month, Canada complained to China about the behavior of Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who publicly berated a Canadian journalist in Ottawa.
(Additional reporting by Nicole Mordant in Vancouver; Editing by Bernard Orr)