State warns of possible Hong Kong exit ban

Hong Kong | Canada warned its citizens on Thursday that authorities in Hong Kong could prevent them from leaving the city, under a new law that has raised fears of an exit ban as in mainland China.

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The law, which gives the chief of immigration the power to prevent people from boarding planes to and from the city, went into effect on Sunday.

“Under this change, people, including foreigners, may not be able to leave the country,” Canada’s Travel Advice Twitter account said.

The tweet referred to an updated notice posted by Ottawa on Tuesday that specifically mentioned these new rules.

“You may not realize that you are subject to movement restrictions until you attempt to leave Hong Kong,” the warning reads.

“In the absence of clarifying legislation, these new powers may relate to investigations of an individual, his or her family, or an employer, as well as criminal and civil matters.”

Mainland China often uses “exit bans” against activists who defy authorities, as well as against businessmen involved in trade disputes.

Some Western countries, including the United States and Britain, have criticized the law, but Canada is the first to explicitly mention the danger of an exit ban in its travel warning.

The Hong Kong government says the law will not apply to people leaving the city and is aimed at preventing illegal immigrants from arriving.

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But the wording does not limit the validity of flights or the arrival of migrants, and legal experts say it could apply to anyone trying to leave Hong Kong as well.

To address these concerns, the Hong Kong government said in April it would draft subsidiary legislation specifying that the law would only apply to domestic flights.

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