BEIJING (AP) — Chinese millionaires on Tuesday pleaded for the Canadian government not to throw away the immigration applications of thousands of Chinese nationals as part of its plans to end a backlogged investor program.
At a news conference, 10 investor applicants delivered their crestfallen message — that their faith in Canada as a "trustworthy country," with its attractive rule of law, environment and welfare system, was wavering.
Last month, Canada announced its intention to terminate its immigrant investor program and eliminate the longstanding backlog of applications — amounting to more than 65,000 people, most of whom are Chinese. It said immigrant investors pay less in taxes than other immigrants and are less likely to stay in Canada over the medium to long term.
Investor applicants, some of whom had applied five years ago, said they were discussing their options with lawyers in Canada and whether to claim compensation for the years they had been waiting.
As China's top leaders meet during this week's ceremonial legislature, the National People's Congress, it is a reminder that all is not well at home, and suggests for some citizens, the "Chinese dream" that President Xi Jinping talks about is to be found on other shores.
Shanghai-based Duan Wuhong said for her, Canada's education system, environment, social welfare and rule of law were pull factors. But she added: "The most important thing is the government is trusted. This is the most important thing for us to choose Canada."
She said at the time of her application she had considered other countries including the U.S. "Applying to Canada is the worst decision I have made in my life. Before I thought it was the best."
Immigration consultant Larry Wang said that Canadian government's policy was "unjustified" and the investor applicants want Canada to "correct its mistake."
"They are not refugees. They can have a very good life in China. They just want to have a better life in Canada," said Wang, a Beijing-born Canadian.
Wang said it was Canada's right to stop its investor program, but it should not disqualify candidates who had already applied.
Canada's Immigration Minister Chris Alexander said his government stands by its plan.
"Our government remains committed to ensuring that economic immigration programs provide a direct benefit to Canada and contribute to long-term prosperity and economic growth. We will not waste taxpayers' dollars on programs that do not meet their objectives, are vulnerable to abuse, or do not promote Canadian interests," Alexander said in a statement. "While we recognize that some investors have settled in Canada and have made valuable contributions, we believe that we can do better. There are many pathways for people from around the world to come to Canada, including a to-be-launched new pilot program for investors."
Program applicants had to have a net worth of 1.6 million Canadian dollars ($1.4 million) and invest 400,000 Canadian dollars, or $800,000 if they applied after 2010, which would be returned after about five years without interest.
Father-of-two Yu Qingxin, who manages commercial buildings, schools and hospitals in China, said he had already bought a house in west Vancouver for nearly $2 million Canadian dollars ($1.8 million) in preparation to emigrate. The most impressive thing about Canada, said Yu, is its "sense of morality."
Another applicant, Du Jun, said he had moved his child out of the Chinese school system to a Canadian school near Beijing. Now, after two years studying at this school, it is almost impossible for his child to return to the Chinese education system, he said.
Associated Press writer Rob Gillies in Toronto contributed to this story.