Taiwan unveils govt office to help Hong Kongers relocating after national security law goes into effect

Minister of the Mainland Affairs Council Chen Ming-tong (left) and Katherine Chang, chairwoman of the Taiwan-Hong Kong Office for Exchanges and Services, at the unveiling of the new office in Taipei, on July 1, 2020. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

TAIPEI - Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) unveiled on Wednesday (July 1) a new office to help Hong Kongers migrate to the island.

This comes 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 staff mainly consists of 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 necessary funding for those in need during the process, details of which are still being discussed by the authorities, said Chiu Chiu-Cheng, MAC's deputy minister

Aside from government offices, MAC is also working with civilian groups and NGOs to provide as much help as possible to streamline the relocation process for Hong Kongers.

Beijing's controversial national security law for Hong Kong went into effect on Tuesday (June 30) The law gives Beijing unprecedented power over those involved in crimes secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces, with penalties as harsh as life imprisonment.

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

When asked how the law will impact Taiwanese nationals visiting Hong Kong in the future, the minister mockingly called it "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 Taiwan authorities should regard it as no longer autonomous under "one country, one system", or if it should suspend Taiwan's Laws and Regulations Regarding Hong Kong & Macao Affairs.

This is a special set of laws that regulates Taiwan's friendly relationship with the two special administrative regions.

While the government encourages Hong Kongers to make investments in Taiwan, it will also vet the investors carefully to ensure that they are not backed by Chinese companies, said Mr Chen. "We have made the bar lower for Hong Kongers to come to Taiwan for education, work or investments, but the investors will be screened rigorously as to not compromise Taiwan's national security," said the minister.

On Tuesday (June 30), President Tsai Ing-wen expressed "disappointment" after the security law was voted unanimously into effect by China's top legislative body, 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," said Ms Tsai, referring to the model China has proposed for Hong Kong, Macau and also Taiwan.

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