Hongkongers Seek Refuge in Taiwan as National Security Law Destroys City’s Freedoms

By Ashok Ramprasad | January 3, 2022
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Hong Kong residents are moving to Taiwan in search of a free life. (Image: https://pixabay.com/photos/cityscape-city-city-lights-evening-5543223/> CC0 1.0)

The city of Hong Kong has increasingly come under the control of Beijing ever since a stringent national security law was passed in 2020. The controversial law allows the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to exert greater control over Hong Kong. With the CCP directing a clampdown on political resistance, public protests, and the society at large, many Hongkongers have made the painful decision to flee the city in search of a better life abroad.

Over the past year, thousands of Hongkongers have relocated to countries like the United States, Australia, Canada, Taiwan, and the United Kingdom. The popular destinations of choice when it comes to emigration are the UK (23.7 percent), Australia (11.6 percent), and Taiwan (10.7 percent) according to reports from the East Asia Forum.

In 2020, Taiwan had set up an office to aid those coming from the former British colony, which was reverted to Chinese governance in 1997. Chiu Chui-cheng, the island’s Mainland Affairs Commission (MAC) spokesman, told reporters on Dec. 31 that the latest data from the Taiwan Immigration Department revealed the number of Hong Kong residents relocating to Taiwan in 2021 was at a record high.

Between January and November 2021, 9,772 residence cards were allocated to Hong Kong residents by the island’s interior ministry, slightly above the 9,501 cards provided in the same period the previous year. Also, 1,572 Hongkongers were granted permanent residency in 2021, up from 1,397 over the same period in 2020.

In 2021, Taipei had announced plans to make it easier for those fleeing the Asian financial hub to stay in Taiwan. Hongkongers are still facing a lot of administrative challenges when it comes to finding a job and staying in Taiwan long-term.

Chiu told Radio Free Asia (RFA) that some new draft modifications to the immigration rules have been made in conformity with “talent recruitment regulations.” This will lengthen the time of stay for Hong Kong students in Taiwan after they finish their masters and doctorate degrees.  He also added that the revisions to the draft have been sent to the Executive Yuan for assessment.  

Chang Hsiang-ling, an immigration consultant, said to the media outlet that Taiwan employed some of the strictest border restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic which made it difficult for more Hongkongers to apply. However, the new laws will open the door for more immigrants in the future.

“It is easier to come from Hong Kong [than] it was before the handover…But people who have only just obtained their Hong Kong permanent residency might not be approved for residence at the current time…They will look at applications from people born in mainland China to see how long that person has lived in Hong Kong, and whether their entire life’s focus is in Hong Kong,” Chang said.

Taiwan is also wary of the threat posed by China due to infiltration and disinformation. Some authorities in Taiwan consider mass immigration as a potential security threat as Beijing may have planted spies among the Hong Kong immigrants. Authenticating the identities of the arrivals could be a major challenge as immigration rises.

According to Chang, former Hong Kong public servants who have already pledged their loyalty to the CCP could be refused entry into Taiwan. Application for residency would be turned down if the person or even their accompanying spouse has made such an oath. However, those working in public healthcare facilities like employees of the Hospital Authority could be exempted.