Court Upholds Decision To Deny Visa To Student From China

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Canada

The Federal Court of Canada (FCC) has upheld the 2022 decision of a visa officer to deny a Chinese national a visa that would have allowed him to enrol in a PhD science programme at the University of Waterloo (UW), one of Canada’s premier science and technology universities.

In his 28-page closely reasoned decision, the FCC’s Chief Justice, Paul Crampton, found that the visa officer was correct to believe that “there are reasonable grounds to believe that Mr [Yuekang] Li may engage in an act of espionage that is against Canada or contrary to Canada’s interests” and that such espionage includes “non-traditional means” such as reporting “open-source” information even after Li returned to China upon completion of his PhD.

Li’s visa application states that he wanted to improve China’s underdeveloped application of advances to point-of-care technology in the field of public health and that a central part of this required the study of microfluidics, an area of micro-nanoscale science and technology.

The visa officer argued, and Crampton agreed (para 54), that the study of microfluidics aligns with China’s strategic interests. Crampton was convinced of this link, in part, by a 2018 article, “Chinese Microfluidics Industry: A Fast-Moving Ecosystem”, cited by the visa officer.

The article says “the Chinese government is recalling Chinese executives, researchers and engineers . . . to lead innovative Chinese companies and increase their success in the microfluidics industry” – words quoted by the judge in agreement.

“This is a precedent-setting case,” said Wesley Wark, a senior fellow at the Waterloo, Ontario-based Centre for International Governance Innovation, and a retired professor from the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, as well as a former member of Canada’s Advisory Council on National Security.

“It’s the first time that the federal court has been required to rule on an admissibility decision with espionage implications under our Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA), which governs admissibility to Canada.

“It’s also a precedent-setting case in that the chief justice of the federal court, which is a fairly unique court in Canada, which deals with national security issues and has a very narrow remit, decided to take this case on himself.

“It sets out an expanded definition of what Canada’s concerns might be about espionage conducted by foreign states like China, which use non-traditional means. The decision focuses on Chinese espionage practices, as we understand them, and relates them to issues of how to best protect university research security in this country,” said Wark.

consent of the person(s) whose information was gathered and reported. It will suffice if that information, even if publicly available, was communicated or reported upon to a foreign state or other foreign entity or person, without any authorisation.”

Nor was Crampton swayed by Li’s claim that the visa officer erred by finding that he could commit espionage by providing China with information after he completes his studies and returns to China.

“I disagree. It is not necessary for activities that would otherwise constitute ‘espionage’ to be conducted while the individual in question is in Canada … The gathering of information within Canada and its subsequent reporting, outside Canada, to a foreign government or other foreign entity or person, is within the purview of the term ‘espionage’, as it is used in … the IRPA,” Crampton said.

University World News

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