Taiwan president Tsai Ing-wen on Wednesday doubled down on offers of help for Hong Kong with effective asylum for residents fleeing an ‘anti-terrorism’ crackdown on the city.
Tsai said she and Premier Su Tseng-chang would launch an assistance program helping people arriving from Hong Kong — where the authorities are targeting anti-Beijing protesters as “terrorists” — to gain residency rights, accommodation and other forms of support.
“We are proposing a humanitarian rescue action plan for our Hong Kong friends, to be drawn up by the Executive Yuan,” Tsai said.
“This project will also include relevant resources, a complete plan for the residency, resettlement, and care of Hong Kong people,” Tsai said. “It includes a budget formulation, and clear assistance mechanisms.”
The Mainland Affairs Council (MAC), the executive department in charge of relations with China, will draft and coordinate the plan among different government departments, Tsai said.
She called on the MAC to formulate and implement the plan as soon as possible, with funding from the government.
Taiwan — which for decades was concerned it could be overwhelmed by refugees from China — has no refugee law, so has no formal asylum process. The democratic island says it responds to asylum requests on a case-by-case basis, using humanitarian principles.
Tsai said there would be no need for a new law to help people fleeing political retaliation in Hong Kong, however.
“Our current laws … are sufficient,” Tsai told journalists. “Regardless of how the regulations may change in future … I can assure of one thing: of our determination to take care of the people of Hong Kong will not change.”
“We will provide them with the necessary assistance to allow them to live and work in Taiwan,” Tsai said.
China’s announcement it will bypass Hong Kong’s legislature to impose draconian security laws on the city to quell “subversion” and “foreign interference” during the year-long protest movement has sparked international criticism and concern.
Tsai said on May 26 that the proposed law “seriously threatens Hong Kong’s future” and erodes its core values of democratic freedoms and judicial independence.
Taiwan last year saw a sudden spike in the number of Hong Kong residents moving to the country, fleeing the possibility of political arrests, amid months of social unrest and growing uncertainty about the city’s future under Chinese rule.
A total of 5,858 Hongkongers were granted temporary or permanent residency in 2019, a rise of 41.12 percent compared with the previous year.
There was also a 35 percent rise in the number of Hong Kong residents gaining permanent residency in Taiwan, which has never been ruled by the Chinese Communist Party, nor formed part of the People’s Republic of China.
Rights groups in Taiwan said on Wednesday that the imposition of the national security legislation on Hong Kong meant that last year’s stand-off over plans to allow extradition to mainland China was now obsolete, as Hong Kong law enforcement would be run along similar lines to that of the rest of China.
But they called on Tsai’s administration to press ahead with a fully fledged Refugee Bill to better serve asylum-seekers.
Reported by Hwang Chun-mei for RFA’s Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.