Why the unrest in Hong Kong matters to Canada in an election year: Canadian-Chinese voices speak out

There are 300,000 Canadians living in Hong Kong as the upcoming Canadian federal election approaches, the first in which expats can vote. It’s therefore significant that Canadian politicians are making statements about the situation in Hong Kong, even if they are all talk and no action.

Our Chinese team at diversityvotes.ca read hundreds of stories in the Canadian Chinese media over the past month, discovering that Toronto-based daily Chinese news portal 51.ca was prominent in contributing to the conversation on Kong Kong and its relevance to the Canadian election via the voices of its readers. Its rich reader comment section showcases some of the street-level thinking in the Chinese community.

As the Canadian federal election in October draws closer, Surrey, BC-based Chinese website westca.com pointed out that the leaders of the various political parties do not want to miss any opportunities for performing on stage.

                            Photo Credit: (Fred Dufour/Reuters)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is “extremely concerned” about Hong Kong, according to 51.ca. He has expressed concerns about Hong Kong’s situation and called on the Chinese authorities to adopt a cautious attitude and respect the protesters’ demands. In 51.ca forums, some internet users wonder what the Hong Kong matter has to do with Canada. One 51.ca commenter found it strange that Canada is publicly meddling with China’s internal affairs, and is being so bold and confident about it. Another one asked whether or not Hong Kong issues have a lot to do with the Canadian prime minister.

Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer even went as far as saying we are all Hong Kongers. Westca.com cited Scheer saying in a Twitter post: “As Beijing amasses troops at the Hong Kong border, now is the time for everyone committed to democracy, freedom, human rights, and the rule of law to stand with the people of Hong Kong, including the 300,000 ex-pat Canadians. Now, and in the coming days, we are all Hong Kongers”.

However, not all readers of Chinese ethnic media in Canada agree with Scheer’s remark that “we are all Hong Kongers”. It was noted in a 51.ca article that Scheer is just an opposition party leader and is not qualified to represent the federal government or Canada. And it appears that not all Twitter users agree with Scheer’s remark either, as one Twitter user wrote in response on westca.com: “We are all Hong Kongers? Hard pass dude, I’ve got no interest in fighting the Chinese”.

“Currently, Canada’s relations with China and its position on the Hong Kong issue have caught the attention of many Chinese Canadians” – noted Chinese Readers, a Vancouver-based website

And it is clear that Canadian politicians are concerned with the unrest in Hong Kong. Why is it that some Canadian politicians are voicing their concerns on this matter? Comments on various Chinese forums indicate that some people just don’t understand why Canada is bothering to comment on Hong Kong and China’s internal affairs. Meanwhile, others are worried about further retaliation or economic sanctions.

Canadian politicians’ concerns could have to do with the fact that the upcoming federal election will be the first time overseas Canadian citizens will be allowed to cast their votes outside Canada.

The Chinese Ming Pao newspaper reported that, according to Canada-Hong Kong Link Director Gloria Fung, the unrest in Hong Kong is not only a Hong Kong issue but has become an issue for Canada as well because there are 300,000 Canadian citizens presently living in Hong Kong and their votes can affect the outcome in many ridings where neither the Conservatives nor Liberals have a clear-cut lead.

According to an article on 51.ca written by Michael Chan, with the federal election approaching, community members suspect the National Post is attempting to pull Hong Kong and “negative China” rhetoric into mainstream Canadian society, in hopes of influencing this October’s federal election. According to the writer, many people know that “negative China” rhetoric is one of the ways to win votes in the mainstream North American society.

  Photo Credit: Law and Border

In addition to Canadian politicians voicing their concerns on this matter, there have been calls on Canada to help the Hong Kong protesters. Among these calls is an open letter from a group of Hong Kongers living in Halifax, which was published in The Coast. 51.ca reported that the letter, titled “What Canada can do to help the Hong Kong protesters”, demanded Canada enact measures to deny entry to, or revoke the Canadian citizenships of, Hong Kong government officials, among other demands.

But do Canadians and the Chinese ethnic media in Canada think it’s likely that Canada will actually do anything to help? Do they want Canada to do anything in the first place?

The Twitter user who expressed no interest in fighting the Chinese also wrote: “Not that there’s much Canada can do in that regard either. Just a bunch of hot air virtue signalling that’s going to have us hit with more economic penalties.”

According to 51.ca, Trudeau doesn’t actually have the time to “save” Hong Kong, because he is going to be busy with the upcoming federal election. The writer said that Trudeau has no motive to “save” Hong Kong, and also noted that Trudeau is already in terrible shape due to the Meng Wanzhou case. Canada-China relations have reached their hardest moment in history, and the writer asked whether one still expects Trudeau to add fuel to the fire.

There is doubt among Chinese Canadians that Canada either has the desire or ability to do anything about Hong Kong. We will see what, if anything, happens after the election. If Hong Kong matters to Canadian politicians only in the context of the 300,000 expat voters who will be exercising their right to vote for the first time, then there may not be any political will to continue standing up for Hong Kong after October. Even if there is, expressing concern is not the same as taking action.

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