TAIPEI - Taiwan will launch a humanitarian programme providing assistance to Hong Kongers who decide to come to Taiwan following Beijing's approval of a proposal for national security legislation in Hong Kong.
The programme, to be funded by the Taiwanese government, will focus on providing legal residency, accommodation, physical and mental care for Hong Kongers who may wish to move to Taiwan, said Mr Chen Ming-tong, who heads the Cabinet-level Mainland Affairs Council (MAC), on Thursday (May 28).
Taiwan president Tsai Ing-wen announced on Wednesday that the self-ruled island would offer a rescue action plan for Hong Kong.
Taiwan, which China sees as a renegade province, deals with residents from Hong Kong and Macau differently than those from mainland China.
The resolution to craft the national security law, approved on Thursday by China’s National People’s Congress, will allow Chinese authorities to directly deal with acts in Hong Kong aimed at toppling the state.
In response to the Tsai administration's plans to help Hong Kongers, China's Taiwan Affairs Office spokesman Ma Xiaoguang said on Thursday that China is "warning the Democratic Progressive Party to not 'loot a burning house' and stir things up."
"No separatists are allowed to meddle in or destroy Hong Kong's prosperity and stability," said Mr Ma.
China view Ms Tsai and her pro-independence party as "separatists".
Urging the public to refrain from using the term "refugee" in reference to Hong Kongers fleeing to Taiwan, Mr Chen said: "The government will not give up on Hong Kong. In facing changes in the future, there will be continued and well-rounded rescue work in which Hong Kongers are provided help ."
In a briefing to the island's Parliament, after a discussion with Premier Su Tseng-chang, Mr Chen unveiled four principles on which concrete means of assistance would be offered.
They are that the programme will be headed by the government; the MAC will take charge of cross-department communications; government-funded corporations will work with civilian groups and organisations; and funds for the plan will come from a government budget.
Ms Tsai had said in a Facebook post over the weekend that should the national security law for Hong Kong be implemented, her administration would consider invoking Article 60 of the Laws and Regulations Regarding Hong Kong and Macau Affairs to ensure Taiwan's national security and interests remain protected in Taiwan's close relationship with Hong Kong.
According to Article 60, "should any change occur in the situation of Hong Kong or Macau such that the implementation of this Act endangers the security of the Taiwan Area, the Executive Yuan may request the President to order suspension of the application of all or part of the provisions of this Act."
Hong Kongers in Taiwan and three opposition parties had expressed concern over Ms Tsai's post, though the MAC said on Monday that the President's proposed article-suspension was a warning to mainland Chinese authorities.
Some 24 civic groups gathered for a press conference on Wednesday to voice their concerns over Ms Tsai's comments over the weekend, Hong Kong students and Taiwanese sympathizers among them. The groups called for the Tsai administration to establish an official asylum system to guide those seeking political refuge from Hong Kong in the wake of the national security legislation controversy.
The groups, led by the Hong Kong Outlanders - Hong Kong youth studying in Taiwan - amassed again on Thursday in front of the Hong Kong Economic, Trade and Cultural Office in Taipei, reiterating the need for a full-fledged asylum system.
According to the Ministry of the Interior, the number of Hong Kongers granted residence in Taiwan jumped 40 per cent from 2018 to 2019, with 5,858 receiving residence rights last year, up from 4,148 the previous year.