The slightly morally ambiguous game of investor visa programs – where a nation grants wealthy foreigners permanent residency after they invest a boatload of cash into its economy – has seen such recent participants as Australia and now Portugal, with other broke-ass countries such as Spain, Greece and Cyprus getting ready to implement similar programs. However, this is a dance that Canada has been specializing in since the eighties with its granting residency to anyone worth their salt — if salt is equivalent to 8.83 million yuan, that is.
At some recent point, however, Canada decided that having the rich essentially purchase visas is just plain wrong from an ethics perspective (although this decision may also have had something to do with a bit of muckraking on South China Morning Post’s part), and did away with the program last month. Now, the estimated 45,500 Chinese millionaires who were still in queue for visas have all had their applications “eliminated” and fees returned: As you might have guessed, these masses of Baba Warbucks’s are none too pleased.
“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,” said 47-year-old Rong Bing, a previous employee of an SOE that applied for the program in 2009. “A refund of our application fees will not make up for all the preparation put in,” Rong said, referring to his quitting his job to prepare for his family’s move to Canada.
Another report by South China Morning Post says that some believe it was anti-Chinese sentiment in Canada that contributed to the axing of this scheme. Gabriel Yiu, an activist who shares this belief, made the following comment:
“Before [the Canadian government] cancelled the scheme, I have already talked to people and [discovered that] there is a backlash against wealthy mainland [Chinese] immigrants, not just within mainstream society but within the Chinese community,” Yiu said. “Sometimes I feel that way too. We don’t like to see people driving huge, expensive cars or buying big houses, but this is a free country.”
The disgruntled and presumably quite wealthy Du Jun, who in preparation for the move to Canada transferred his child to a Canadian international school in Tianjin, made the following comment: “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.”
The Canadian government justified its decision to back out of the scheme by saying “the program was riddled with fraud”, but we also know that an overwhelming number of applicants – tens of thousands of applicants were pouring into the Canadian Consulate in Hong Kong – had left the scheme spiraling out of control.
By Alex Stevens