With the new Hong Kong security law in place, there is widespread concern among Hong Kongers with a growing number of them mulling over relocating to Taiwan to protect themselves from the Chinese crackdown.
Its proximity and cultural similarities are the main factors which are attracting the people in Hong Kong.
In response, the Taiwanese government has opened an office on July 1 to help Hong Kongers who seek legal residency in Taiwan, in anticipation of an influx of immigrants.
“The new office was created precisely to more efficiently evaluate and process applications on a case-by-case basis,” said Kolas Yotaka, spokesperson at Taiwan’s presidential office, adding that existing resources are sufficient to handle the possible increase in arrivals.
According to the Mainland Affairs Council in Taiwan, which sets Taiwan’s policy towards mainland China, within a week of its opening, the office has received hundreds of phone calls and emails inquiring about how to move to Taiwan.
“We think the number of inquiries could increase as the Chinese government continues to impose the national security law. The Taiwan-Hong Kong Services and Exchange Office will closely monitor the development in Hong Kong,” a council official said.
On July 1, Beijing imposed a so-called national security law on Hong Kong, triggering a sense of urgency among many Hong Kongers. The law criminalizes four activities: “secession, subversion, organization and perpetration of terrorist activities, and collusion with a foreign country or with external elements to endanger national security”.
During 2019 protests, nearly 6,000 Hong Kongers moved to Taiwan, a sharp increase compared to the previous year, according to Taiwan’s immigration agency.
Renowned Hong Kong bookseller Lam Wing-Kee is a Hong Kong immigrant who came to Taiwan in April 2019. Since then, he reopened his bookstore in Taipei, and has been vocal about the drastic changes that have been taking place in Hong Kong.
“Certain books written by pro-democracy figures are viewed as banned books in Hong Kong and raising a piece of white paper during a protest can be deemed illegal under the national security law,” Lam said.