Taiwan has started to take in refugees from Hong Kong who have decided to flee their city as China steps up its political and social control of the supposedly independent region.
According to Secretary-General of the Taiwan Association for Human Rights Shih Yi-Hsiang, around 200 prominent Hong Kong protesters have come to Taiwan for “political reasons” since demonstrations escalated last June.
Shih added that Taiwanese authorities have so far accepted about 20 of their applications following investigations by the Mainland Affairs Council and the National Immigration Agency into their political status.
“There is still a significantly larger number of people waiting for their cases to be processed,” he admitted.
Those seeking to migrate permanently have submitted their applications according to Article 18 of the Act Governing Relations with Hong Kong and Macau, which stipulates that “necessary assistance shall be provided to Hong Kong or Macau residents whose safety and liberty are immediately threatened for political reasons.”
Since July last year, pastor Huang Chun-Sheng from the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan has provided assistance, mainly in the form of psychological help, to some 200 Hongkongers, many of whom fled the region while awaiting court hearings for their involvement in protests, which have once again stepped up in recent weeks.
“They showed up at the church in the winter wearing nothing but short-sleeved shirts and sandals, asking for help,” he told the Taipei Times. “We helped one person apply to a medical school, and a Taiwanese doctor offered to help pay their tuition and stick with them through their study.”
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen announced on Wednesday that her government would step up efforts to provide asylum for residents fleeing the ongoing “anti-terrorism” crackdown on the city, which effectively targets various protest leaders over their stance against Beijing.
“We are proposing a humanitarian rescue action plan for our Hong Kong friends, to be drawn up by the Executive Yuan,” Tsai said. “This project will also include relevant resources, a complete plan for the residency, resettlement, and care of Hong Kong people. It includes a budget formulation and clear assistance mechanisms.”
Mass demonstrations, which began last summer in response to an extradition bill imposed by Beijing, have flared up again in recent weeks despite the risks posed by the Chinese coronavirus pandemic, leading to the arrest of hundreds of political activists.
“If the situation in Hong Kong worsens, and its autonomy and human rights are further suppressed, we will resolutely voice our concerns,” she continued. “We will continue to support Hongkongers’ determination to strive for democracy and freedom which are paramount to its peace and stability.”
Taiwan and Hong Kong share various qualities in that they are both being targeted by China over their independent status. While Taiwan is a fully independent country that Beijing wants to reunite with China, Hong Kong is supposedly under a form of governance known as “One Country, Two Systems” as agreed by the British government, which means it is technically part of China but entirely autonomous.