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Human Rights Group Shares Expertise in Handling Anonymous Threats Against Overseas Hongkongers

Hong Kong Watch (HKW) Canada has received several requests for assistance from Hong Kong residents in Toronto, Vancouver, and Calgary who have received anonymous threatening messages from pro-China individuals who suspect their personal movements are being monitored. HKW Canada’s Policy Advisor Katherine Leung reminds Hong Kong’s residents not to panic if they receive similar messages but to keep the screenshot and source of the message and report it to the police.

“Those facing threats and intimidation in the Hong Kong community are not limited to those at the forefront of political activism but also extend to individuals involved in non-political activities, including immigrants who have made their homes in the community and actively participate in communal affairs.” Leung highlights that HKW Canada has raised concerns over anonymous threats directed towards members of the Hong Kong diaspora residing in Canada and is urging the Canadian government to swiftly establish an independent reporting hotline and pass legislation to address the matter.

In the wake of the ominous and anonymous threats targeting the people of Hong Kong, HKW Canada has taken a proactive step to assist those in need. At the end of March, the organization organized a closed-door roundtable meeting in Ottawa, where the affected individuals could present their cases to federal officials and members of Parliament. The primary objective of this meeting is to urge the government to expedite the establishment of a reporting hotline, offering a swift and efficient recourse for the aggrieved. The details of the meeting’s discourse shall be revealed shortly after the gathering convenes.

On March 10, the Canadian federal government made an announcement regarding the initiation of a public consultation for the establishment of a “Foreign Agents Registration.” The Minister of Public Safety of Canada, Marco Mendicino, disclosed this information to the public and the media. However, it is expected to take several months to complete this process.

When asked about the Canadian government’s efficiency, Katherine expressed her uncertainty about how the legislation would be enacted. She recommended taking cues from Bill S-237, proposed by Canadian Senator and HKW patron Leo Housakos in November 2021. This bill requires foreign government agents to file returns and prescribes fines or imprisonment for false declarations. The bill is under consideration during its second reading in the Canadian Senate.

Anonymous Threats Cause Stress

HKW Canada is deeply concerned about the plight of immigrants in Hong Kong, having received numerous pleas for assistance over the past year. Some of these distress calls have been linked to anonymous threats. In a recent interview with The Epoch Times, Katherine disclosed that many messages and phone calls had been transmitted via popular social media apps, including Telegram, where the identities of the offending parties have proven elusive to trace.

The menacing correspondence typically enjoins Hong Kong citizens to desist from engaging in certain communal activities or implies an ominous foreknowledge of their actions. Worst of all, a handful of individuals have reportedly been sent grisly videos of beheadings, constituting a serious threat to their physical safety.

Katherine expressed her concern, stating that the messages are a source of great fear for Hong Kong residents. The anonymity of the sender and their knowledge of personal information leave recipients feeling vulnerable and exposed. This is particularly alarming for those at the forefront of the Hong Kong protests. They have endured trauma and believed that moving to Canada would provide safety and security. The unexpected occurrence of these threatening messages overseas has made them uneasy and anxious.

No Need to Panic if you Receive Anonymous Threats, Calm Down and Keep Evidence Safe

Katherine advises Hong Kongers residing overseas who receive anonymous threats to adopt a cautious approach. “In case of a threat, refrain from responding immediately. The first step should be to gather evidence, keep the individual’s contact details, capture a screenshot of the threat, and report it to the police. HKW is compiling such cases and will soon hold a closed-door roundtable meeting with federal congressmen if willing. We may arrange similar events in the future, and your contribution in providing evidence could prove invaluable.”

Katherine also highlights the importance of taking precautionary measures to ensure personal safety, such as disabling cell phone location services and locking doors upon arriving home to secure oneself from harm’s way.

Katherine recommends that Hong Kong residents experiencing psychological distress from threats seek professional psychological counseling, confide in trusted friends, and avoid carrying the burden alone.

Katherine has highlighted that Hong Kong residents who receive anonymous threats can still report them to the RCMP and CSIS, regardless of whether or not they have concrete evidence. While most cases remain pending due to lacking a robust mechanism and a comprehensive cross-governmental approach to tackle such incidents,

Hong Kong authorities are closely monitoring the situation. They are also advocating for establishing an independent reporting hotline and urging Hong Kong citizens living abroad to come forward and report any such incidents. Every call to the police is crucial and serves as vital evidence to expedite the enactment of the “Foreign Agents Registration” legislation.

HKW Closely Monitors the Incident and Hopes that Canada will Confirm Their Solution ASAP

Some victims consider receiving threatening messages as a personal and private matter and may not wish to reveal their experiences. Katherine recognizes this and hopes the Canadian government will establish an autonomous reporting hotline as an interim solution. “If there exists a secure method to report a crime to Canadian authorities, it is to safeguard oneself, and by not speaking up, one deprives themselves of any aid. Each individual reporting a crime contributes to the safety of our community,” she remarked.

Katherine has a profound vision for the future. She hopes that Canada’s administration will embrace the essence of Bill S-237. She introduced the bill, modeled after similar legislation in the United States and Australia, which may not explicitly focus on the predicament faced by the people of Hong Kong. Nevertheless, it offers a potential solution to the problem of foreign agents operating in the country. By providing a supplementary legal avenue for prosecuting such individuals, the bill could serve as a formidable deterrent against their nefarious activities.

During her visits with Canadian legislators across party lines, Katherine endeavored to inform them about the pressing issue of anonymous intimidation faced by Hong Kong citizens. “From my observations, it seems that all parties recognize the severity of this problem and are committed to finding a solution.

The Liberal Party believes the United Nations Special Rapporteur should investigate the matter. Meanwhile, the Conservative Party proposes a public investigation and insists that Katie Telford, chief of staff to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, be summoned to testify.

The New Democratic Party (NDP) also calls for a public investigation. I believe the Canadian government is genuinely concerned about this issue but lacks a concrete action plan. I hope representatives from different political factions can work together towards a resolution.”

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