A call by Hong Kong activists to “evacuate to Taiwan” appears to have hit a nerve, with government data showing a sixfold increase in the number of applications for residency from Hong Kongers.
The National Immigration Agency (NIA) said it received an average of 100 such applications per month between January and August. However, 632 applications were filed in September, the most recent data available.
Applications by residents of Hong Kong and Macau to live in Taiwan totaled 1,598 through August, while there were 486 applications for permanent residency during the same period.
Residents of the two former colonies can apply for permanent residency after living in Taiwan for a specific period of time and the figures are seen as “leading indicators” of an intention to settle in Taiwan, an agency official said.
“We have definitely seen an increasing trend in the past few years. We had a historic high last year in the number of Hong Kongers applying for residency in Taiwan. The amount of applications for permanent residence also hit a new high last year since China took over Hong Kong [in 1997],” the official said.
There has been a growing groundswell of discontent in Hong Kong in recent months, with massive protests being held against the government. The situation has been exacerbating by the skyrocketing price of housing and falling wages, along with many Hong Kong residents feeling that their social welfare entitlements are being squeezed by the upsurge in Chinese residents in the territory.
Media in Hong Kong have been reporting on a generation of “angry youth,” who are prompting the calls to emigrate.
The Hong Kong government last month granted television broadcast licenses to two networks, both controlled by business tycoons, while denying a license to Hong Kong Television Network, which is perceived as more aligned with democracy and media freedom causes. The decision led to more than 100,000 people attending anti-government rallies to protest the move.
Some young people have initiated an “Evacuate to Taiwan” campaign on their Facebook pages, which has received a positive response and appears to be gathering steam among the territory’s youth.
The Rules Governing Permits for People from Hong Kong and Macau Setting Up Residence or Permanent Residence in Taiwan (香港澳門居民進入臺灣地區及居留定居許可辦法) set out the requirements that residents of the former British colony who wish to move to Taiwan must follow.
Like other foreigners, some Hong Kongers can come to Taiwan on employment contracts, or if they possess special skills.
Hong Kong residents can also apply under the “investment immigrant” category if they invest NT$5 million (US$169,000) or more in Taiwan or deposit NT$5 million or more into a Taiwanese bank account for more than a year.
Analysts say the amount, equivalent to about HK$1.35 million, would only buy about 1 ping (3.305m2) of property in the territory’s pricey hillside residential districts.