Early this morning Edward Snowden released a video message imploring Canadians to call the minister of immigration and ask him to step in and protect the seven refugees who sheltered Snowden in Hong Kong in 2013.
Last week the Hong Kong government rejected the asylum claims of all seven refugees, including three stateless children under the age of five. They now face imminent deportation to “the very places where they face torture or worse.”
“The challenge” Snowden explains, “is that if we don't get an answer from the government of Canada this week, it may be too late.”
“Don't be afraid to call,” he concludes, “because if we wait, or we're not sure, we'll all wonder why we didn't do more.”
Ricochet has transcribed the short video, and you’ll find both the transcript and video below. Donations to support the refugees emergency appeals are also being collected on their website.
I think it's important to understand who these families are, to really understand what's happening. Now the families, Supun, Ajith, Nadeeka, Vanessa and their children, these are good people, who were driven from their homes by torture, rape, abuse, blackmail and war. Circumstances that are really difficult for us to imagine, but these are documented. These aren't allegations, these are facts.
Now they've spent many years since then living in poverty, in deprivation, in Hong Kong while they asked the government to protect them. Asked them for help, asked them to make them safe. Now, what they're facing is a transparent injustice, from the very people that they asked to protect them. We don't know who is behind it, exactly, but someone in the Hong Kong government has decided they want to make these families disappear immediately, no matter the costs. If we're being generous, maybe this is happening at a low level, maybe somebody is trying to protect their bosses from bad press - we don't know.
What we do know is if the minister of security in Hong Kong, Lai Tung-kwok, allows it to happen it should be seen as the defining moment of his career. Maybe we're wrong. Maybe, and I hope this is true, he'll show us that he's the kind of man that we need in government and work to get these families immediately resettled and protected, whether in Hong Kong, Canada or somewhere else. But hope is not enough, and with the stakes so high we can't take chances.
So because of this I understand that the families' lawyers, led by Robert Tibbo in Hong Won and Marc-André Séguin in Montreal, have filed an emergency petition to have the government of Canada protect them. The challenge is that if we don't get an answer from the government of Canada this week, it may be too late. Because just last week, the government of Hong Kong rejected all of these families cases, didn't even consider the children's cases, and just said "get them out. We don't care, we don't care what the evidence is, just get them out.”
They could be arrested at any time. The children could be separated from their parents, and the families could be returned to the very places where they face torture or worse. Now, every human rights organization in the world is watching this case, but it's not enough.
If we're going to protect these families, we need your help. Please, if you're watching this, if you care in any way, call the minister of immigration in Canada, Ahmed Hussen, or the consulate of Canada in Hong Kong, or the Hong Kong government itself, and ask for them to help these people, to look at the case and go, "look, it doesn't matter what the politics are, it doesn't matter what happened here, this is about protecting people's lives."
Don't be afraid to call, because if we wait, or we're not sure, we'll all wonder why we didn't do more. Thank you.