A group of wealthy mainlanders has criticised the Canadian government for scrapping its investor visa scheme and are threatening legal action if the decision is not overturned.
More than 10 people who had applied for the visa met with reporters in Beijing yesterday to air their grievances. The group said they had wasted years of time, effort and money preparing to move to North America.
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty announced last month that the Canadian government was scrapping the Immigrant Investor Programme.
The scheme has allowed nearly 100,000 wealthy Hongkongers and mainland Chinese to move across the Pacific since 1986.
An estimated 45,500 Chinese millionaires who were still in the queue for visas will have their applications “eliminated” and their fees returned.
Rong Bing, a 47-year-old businessman, said he first applied to move to Canada through the investor visa scheme in 2009.
He quit his job with a state-owned enterprise the same year to prepare for his family’s move to Canada.
“We have set aside a lot of money to meet the investment requirements and over the years passed up on many opportunities,” he said.
“Moving to Canada has been a dream of mine since witnessing what happened in 1989 as a student over there on this main thoroughfare,” he said, pointing to a road passing Tiananmen Square where the crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators took place.
“I thought Canada was a place that underpins justice, trust and democracy, but the abrupt, unilateral decision to scrap the scheme has left us very, very disappointed,” he said. “A refund of our application fees will not make up for all the preparation put in.”
Larry Wang, the president of the immigration consultancy firm that organised the meeting with reporters, said he would help applicants take legal action if the decision was not overturned.
“It’s not in many Chinese people’s nature to stand up for their rights, but many of our clients have shown willingness to speak out on this issue,” Wang said.
Du Jun, 54, applied for the scheme in 2010 hoping to take his family of three to Canada.
In preparation, he transferred his child to a Canadian international school in Tianjin two years ago.
“A sovereign country, of course, has the right to make such a move, but it’s unfathomable how a democratic and human-rights-respecting country like Canada just cut off applications like that, without regard to those who’ve been preparing for the move for years,” Du said.