Monday, 23 May, 2022

Hong Kongers move to Taiwan in record numbers

TAIPEI: The number of Hong Kongers settling in Taiwan hit a new record last year, official figures from the self-ruled island show, as China ramps up control of the financial hub, reports AFP.  

Democratic Taiwan has long attracted Hong Kong people seeking an alternative to their city's frenetic pace and sky-high rents. But the flow has accelerated since Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law on Hong Kong to smother dissent following massive and often violent pro-democracy protests in 2019.

The number of Hong Kongers securing the right to stay on the island reached almost 13,000 last year, according to Taiwan's National Immigration Agency.

Some 11,173 of those acquired short-term residency while another 1,685 received permanent residency.

That followed a doubling of the number in 2020 compared to the year before, with 10,813 people granted short-term residency visas. The previous record was 7,506 in 2014 during Hong Kong's pro-democracy "umbrella movement" protests.

Taiwan does not have an asylum or refugee law, nor does it accept refugee applications -- fearful of a potential influx from the authoritarian Chinese mainland.

Hong Kongers can, however, apply to live on the island through other channels, including investment visas.

The government of President Tsai Ing-wen has expressed support for Hong Kong's democracy movement and launched an office in 2020 to deal with fleeing Hong Kongers seeking to stay.

Several high-profile Hong Kong dissidents including bookseller Lam Wing-kee and visual artist Kacey Wong have sought sanctuary in Taiwan in recent years.

But the island, which lives under constant threat of an invasion by China, has also rejected some immigration applications over national security concerns.

Last year the government refused to grant residency to Hong Kong entertainment tycoon Charles Heung whose family have close ties with Chinese authorities.