Taiwan sets up office to help Hong Kongers relocate

Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) yesterday unveiled a new office to help Hong Kongers migrate to the island, a day after China imposed a contentious law that has sent chills through the financial hub.

The opening of the Taiwan-Hong Kong Office for Exchanges and Services is a declaration of "Taiwan's support for Hong Kong's democracy and freedom, as well as Taiwan's determination in expressing care for the Hong Kong people", said MAC Minister Chen Ming-tong.

The office is mainly staffed by MAC officials, who will be manning some 20 telephone lines for Hong Kongers who wish to relocate to Taiwan to study, work, make investments or seek political asylum.

The office will also provide funding for those in need, details of which are still being discussed by the authorities, said Mr Chiu Chiu-cheng, MAC's deputy minister.

Beijing's controversial national security law for Hong Kong went into effect on Tuesday. The law gives Beijing unprecedented power over those involved in crimes of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces, with maximum penalties of life imprisonment.

Mr Chen said early last month that MAC, which has previously been the main window of communication for Hong Kongers in Taiwan or those who wished to relocate to Taiwan, had received over 200 asylum applications since the national security draft law was announced on May 21.

When asked how the law will impact Taiwanese nationals visiting Hong Kong, the minister described it as "a decree from the celestial empire to the people of the world".

"This isn't only directed at the people of Hong Kong... Let's say an American citizen says something critical of Beijing authorities in the United States and thus causes Hong Kongers to resent Beijing, this would mean trouble for them, too," said Mr Chen, who emphasised that the whole world should be paying close attention to the law.

The minister also said that the Taiwanese government will be observing further political changes in Hong Kong before determining if it should suspend Taiwan's Laws and Regulations Regarding Hong Kong & Macau Affairs, which regulate Taiwan's friendly relationship with the two special administrative regions.

On Tuesday, President Tsai Ing-wen expressed "disappointment" after the security law was voted into effect, saying China did not keep its promise of allowing Hong Kong 50 years of autonomy after its 1997 handover from Britain.

"This also proves that (China's) 'one country, two systems' model is not feasible," she said, referring to the model China has proposed for Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 02, 2020, with the headline Taiwan sets up office to help Hong Kongers relocate. Subscribe