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Risk of espionage: the study permit of a Chinese refused | Canada-China relations

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Chinese student's study permit application denied; a Federal Court judge upheld an immigration officer's decision.


A Federal Court judge upheld the decision of an immigration officer who refused, in 2022, the study permit of a Chinese citizen who wanted to work on his doctorate at the University of Waterloo, because The student in question posed a national security risk.

In his decision, rendered on December 22 and released this week, Chief Justice Paul Crampton dismissed Yuekang Li's appeal, which challenged the immigration officer's decision.

With hostile state actors increasingly resorting to non-traditional methods to obtain sensitive information, in Canada or abroad, in disregard of Canada's interests, the Court's assessment of what constitutes "espionage" must evolve, we read in the decision.

The immigration agent, who is not named in the decision, cites, among other things , Mr. Li's field of study as justification for denying him a study permit. Judge Crampton confirms that this is reasonable grounds.

The news was first reported by the Globe & Mail.

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According to some experts, this type of decision could become more frequent.

The [immigration] officer links Mr. Li's field of study, microfluidics, to China's strategic interests. In this regard, the officer discussed open access articles reporting the importance of the microfluidic industry to China's strategic ambitions. […] [An article], entitled Chinese microfluidics industry : a fast-moving eco-system, notes that the Chinese government is recalling Chinese executives, researchers and engineers who have worked abroad to lead innovative Chinese companies and increase their success in the microfluidics industry, reads- on in the judge's decision.

Microfluidics: branch of fluid mechanics studying those which circulate in channels of a few micrometers in diameter.

Source: Dictionnaire Larousse

The judge cites the immigration officer's decision: Specializing in an industry that the [People's Republic of China] has designated as one of its top ten industries high technology (biopharma and advanced medical products) raises concerns that the applicant may be targeted by the [People's Republic of China] for use in its non-traditional methods of espionage, which could lead to the supply to the [People's Republic of China] People of China] of information contrary to the interests of Canada.

The judge agrees with the agent's decision.< /p>Open in full screen mode

Yuekang Li wanted to study at the University of Waterloo. (File photo)

Margaret McCuaig-Johnston, a board member of the think tank China Strategic Risks Institute, said that& #x27;she does not believe that this is the last refusal of its kind.

[Canadian immigration] visa officers in Beijing and probably other cities in China have been given advice on what to do We need to watch out for potential military ties with students and professors who want to come to Canada from China and work with our own professors, she said.

This is new and I think it's something that universities themselves need to monitor, [to avoid] admitting students who might pose a risk to [national] security. /p>

For his part, Dick Fadden, former adviser to the prime minister on national security and former director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), said the decision gave Canada a new tool to tackle a growing problem.

Whether Mr. Li is or could be a spy has very little to do with this decision. I think it's indisputable that the Chinese, both in Canada and in allied countries, have used universities to acquire intellectual property useful to their armed forces, he said.

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Richard Fadden is a former adviser to the national security of the Prime Minister. (File photo)

He added that it was high time to consider closing certain areas of study to foreign adversaries, including nuclear technologies, high-level optics and space research.

We should encourage students from other countries to come to our country, just as we should encourage Canadians to study abroad, but there must certainly be a number of critical areas that we and our allies let's decide not to share with a strategic adversary, he said. I think [Judge Crampton's decision] will make things easier.

The federal government has implemented national security reviews for academics seeking federal funding and published the National Security Guidelines for Research Partnerships.

I still think we're behind despite that, Fadden said. We were very slow to react. I think one of the biggest challenges we face is recognizing that national security is no longer the sole responsibility of the federal government. We must involve the provinces, civil society and the private sector.

Ms. McCuaig-Johnston said China has been targeting Canadian campuses for years because they are an easy target.

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Margaret McCuaig-Johnston is with the think tank China Strategic Risks Institute. (File photo)

We do not want to attract military scientists to Canada who join government-funded programs to learn our innovations and use them for their own military applications, she said. This is not very wise. So we have to close this door.

CSIS has publicly sounded the alarm on this subject. Last month, the agency's director, David Vigneault, said in a speech that China's efforts to steal Canadian research and interfere in the world should not be underestimated. the affairs of the country.

They steal intellectual property from Canadian companies, universities and governments; the very essence of our future prosperity, he said in a speech at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg.

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David Vigneault is the director of CSIS. (File photo)

No one should be under any illusions about the extent of [China's] efforts to infiltrate our political systems, our private sector, our government institutions, our universities and our communities from coast to coast. This is not a problem unique to Vancouver or Toronto. This is a problem that concerns all of Canada.

In a written statement, the Chinese embassy in Ottawa said Beijing opposes espionage and that it wanted to strengthen cooperation with Canada, calling it mutually beneficial. The embassy expressed hope for an end to what it called baseless accusations against China.

The Chinese side urges the Canadian side to stop stretching the concept of national security and provide a fair and conducive environment for Chinese students . China will take necessary measures to resolutely guarantee the safety and legitimate rights and interests of Chinese students in Canada, the statement said.

With reporting from Catharine Tunney of CBCNews

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