French classes pro­vide way out ofchina

Que­bec ac­cepts for­eign­ers with a good grasp of Canada’s sec­ond lan­guage

The Washington Times Daily - - World - BY LOUISE WATT

Next stop, Que­bec

BEI­JING | Thou­sands of peo­ple in China are try­ing to write their own ticket out of the coun­try — in French.

Chi­nese des­per­ate to em­i­grate have dis­cov­ered a backdoor into Canada that in­volves ap­ply­ing for en­try into the coun­try’s fran­co­phone prov­ince of Que­bec — which re­quires for­eign­ers to have a good work­ing knowl­edge of the lo­cal lingo.

While learn­ing French as a sec­ond lan­guage is los­ing pop­u­lar­ity in many parts of the world and even as Man­darin classes pro­lif­er­ate be­cause of China’s rise on the in­ter­na­tional stage, many Chi­nese are busy learn­ing how to say, “Bon­jour, je m’ap­pelle Zhang.” (“Hello, my name is Zhang.”)

Yin Shan­shan said the French class she takes in the port city of Tian­jin near Bei­jing even gives primers on Que­bec’s his­tory and its ge­og­ra­phy, in­clud­ing the names of sub­urbs around its big­gest city, Mon­treal.

“My French class is a lot of fun,” the 25-year-old said. “So far, I can say ‘My name is . . . I come from . . . I live at.’ ”

Get­ting straight to the busi­ness of set­tling down in the prov­ince, she said she has learned to say, “I would like to rent a medium-sized, one-be­d­room flat.”

De­spite China’s grow­ing pros­per­ity and clout, more and more of its cit­i­zens are rush­ing to em­i­grate. They are ea­ger to pro­vide bet­ter ed­u­ca­tion prospects for their chil­dren and es­cape from their coun­try’s long-stand­ing prob­lems, in­clud­ing pol­lu­tion and con­tam­i­nated food.

Canada joins the United States and Australia among the most-fa­vored desti­na­tions.

Many gov­ern­ments are im­pos­ing tougher im­mi­gra­tion rules by adopt­ing new quo­tas, cut­ting the pro­fes­sions sought un­der skilled-worker pro­grams and rais­ing the amount of fi­nan­cial com­mit­ment needed for the ex­emp­tions granted to big-time in­vestors. That is where Que­bec comes in. The prov­ince se­lects its own im­mi­grants and does not have any cap or back­log of ap­pli­cants, like Canada’s na­tional pro­gram does. But it re­quires most im­mi­grants to demon­strate their knowl­edge of French.

Im­mi­gra­tion agen­cies in Bei­jing started push­ing this pro­gram over the past year.

“This is the only way out, there’s no other way,” said Que­bec-based im­mi­gra­tion con­sul­tant Joyce Li.

These trans­plants must com­mit to liv­ing in Que­bec in their ap­pli­ca­tion, but, later on, they can take ad­van­tage of Cana­dian rights to move to Toronto or Van­cou­ver, as most emi­grant busi­ness in­vestors do, she said.

“At the in­ter­view, they make you sign the pa­per. But once in Canada, the Char­ter of Rights lets you live any­where,” she said. “Only about 10 per­cent of Chi­nese us­ing the Que­bec [in­vestor] pro­gram come here or even less. You don’t see any of them. It’s too cold for many Chi­nese peo­ple. There’s no di­rect flights.”

Many Chi­nese have in the past sought to lever­age their way into Canada with job skills, as fam­ily mem­bers of Chi­nese al­ready there or with the coun­try’s emi­grant-in­vestor pro­gram, which gives for­eign­ers with a net worth of $1.6 mil­lion a fast track to per­ma­nent res­i­dency.

But a back­log of cases has prompted the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to halt some kinds of fam­ily spon­sor­ship ap­pli­ca­tions for two years and cap in­vestor ap­pli­cants at 700 per year.

Chi­nese are in­creas­ingly fo­cus­ing on Que­bec, said Zhao Yangyang, who works at the im­mi­gra­tion agency Bei­jing Royal Way Ahead Exit & En­try Ser­vice Co.

“That’s why many peo­ple, whether they are rich or skilled pro­fes­sion­als, are try­ing hard to learn French,” she said.

Que­bec’s im­mi­gra­tion min­is­ter, Kath­leen Weil, said the prov­ince wel­comes the height­ened in­ter­est from po­ten­tial im­mi­grants.

“We’re happy about it, and we want to keep them here,” she said.

French class

Al­liance Fran­caise, which pro­motes French lan­guage and cul­ture, turned away would-be stu­dents in the Chi­nese cap­i­tal last year be­cause its classes there were full for the first time ever.

“There is a grow­ing de­mand for im­mi­gra­tion to French-speak­ing coun­tries and es­pe­cially Que­bec,” said Lau­rent Croset, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Al­liance Fran­caise in China.

The num­ber of les­son hours sold across China from Oc­to­ber 2010 to Septem­ber 2011 in­creased by 14 per­cent com­pared with the same pe­riod in the pre­vi­ous year.

Many of those who want to leave are mid­dle-class pro­fes­sion­als who own a larger-than-av­er­age apart­ment in Bei­jing or Shang­hai and earn more than an an­nual $32,000, ac­cord­ing to Ms. Zhao of the Bei­jing im­mi­gra­tion con­sul­tancy.

“Of all those who want or plan to em­i­grate, 80 per­cent want their chil­dren to get a bet­ter ed­u­ca­tion,” she said.

Chi­nese were the big­gest group of im­mi­grants to Canada from 2001 to 2009, although they fell to third place in 2010 be­hind peo­ple from the Philip­pines and In­dia, even as the num­bers of Chi­nese rose.

In 2010-2011, China be­came the No. 1 source for im­mi­grants to Australia as num­bers of new Chi­nese mi­grants rose to just un­der 30,000. In the United States, Chi­nese were be­hind only Mex­i­cans in be­ing granted law­ful per­ma­nent res­i­dence in the three years to 2010, the lat­est year for which data is avail­able.

The ex­o­dus high­lights how many Chi­nese see a bet­ter fu­ture abroad.

While China’s poli­cies have lifted mil­lions out of poverty over the past two decades, the au­thor­i­tar­ian com­mu­nist gov­ern­ment tightly con­trols many as­pects of daily life. China’s lead­ers pun­ish dis­sent and any per­ceived chal­lenges to their power and cen­sor what can be read on­line and in print. They forcibly limit most fam­i­lies to one child.

Mean­while, sin­gle-party rule has failed to stop a grow­ing rich-poor di­vide or ad­dress prob­lems of pol­lu­tion and con­tam­i­nated food.

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