President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) has made a dozen or more statements in support of Hong Kong since last year’s eruption of a protest movement against a proposed legal amendment that would have allowed extraditions from Hong Kong to mainland China.
Most recently, Tsai publicly voiced her support for Next Digital media group founder Jimmy Lai (黎智英) after he was taken to court in handcuffs and a waist chain, saying that although the two of them did not share identical political views, her adherence to democracy and freedom compelled her to stand up and to express her anger and frustration over Lai’s situation.
In May, when the Chinese National People’s Congress Standing Committee was preparing to pass the Law of the People’s Republic of China on Safeguarding National Security in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, known as the “Hong Kong National Security Law,” Tsai and Lai publicly clashed over Taipei’s response.
Addressing Tsai, Lai said that real action was needed, not just empty words, and that he hoped the government would consider broadening the Immigration Act (入出國及移民法) to allow Hong Kongers to migrate to Taiwan.
Tsai responded that it was relatively easy for Hong Kongers to come to Taiwan and that the terms of the Laws and Regulations Regarding Hong Kong and Macau Affairs (香港澳門關係條例) were adequate — there was no need to enact a separate refugee law.
Taiwan’s opposition parties saw Tsai’s response as a chance to have a go at her.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Johnny Chiang (江啟臣) said that Tsai only saw Hong Kong as a disposable political tool and that she would talk about her support of the territory, but would never do anything that would provide meaningful assistance.
However, whenever there are discussions about whether Taiwan should adopt a refugee act, a sticking point is how to determine political refugee status.
Since the British government handed sovereignty over Hong Kong back to China in 1997, more than 1 million Chinese people have obtained so-called “one-way permits” to settle permanently in the territory.
For example, last year, 29,200 Hong Kongers voted with their feet by moving abroad, a seven-year high, while 39,100 Chinese “one-way permit” holders moved to Hong Kong — a net immigration of 9,900 people, or more than 70 percent of the territory’s 14,200 increase in population.
Hong Kong has opened its door so wide for Chinese immigrants that, before long, this quantitative change will become a qualitative one.
Whether Hong Kong is being used as a springboard for extending “red infiltration” into Taiwan and how Chinese spies can be prevented from entering disguised as migrants are issues that national security agencies are unwilling, or unable, to talk about.
Taiwan is not the only country facing such concerns.
On Dec. 18, an attempt in the US Senate to expedite the passage of the US Hong Kong People’s Freedom and Choice Act of 2020 — a measure that would provide temporary protection or asylum to Hong Kongers who are in the US fleeing political persecution — was unexpectedly blocked by US Senator Ted Cruz, a strong supporter of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement.
One of his concerns was that the legislation would attract more Chinese Communist Party spies to the US.
Cruz said that Hong Kongers have an adequate opportunity to qualify as refugees under existing regulations and that US President Donald Trump had increased the quota of refugee slots available to those seeking asylum from Hong Konger.
China’s Guancha Syndicate immediately published a sarcastic opinion piece saying that “Hong Kong wreckers” had been sold out by “anti-China members in the US Congress.”
In the first 10 months of this year, nearly 7,500 Hong Kongers obtained permission to stay in Taiwan, up more than 70 percent from the same period last year, statistics released by the National Immigration Agency showed.
Tsai’s administration has handled the arrival of Hong Kong protesters in Taiwan in a low-key manner, which is in line with her national security team’s consistently cautious and restrained style.
The extent to which the Immigration Act is to be relaxed for Hong Kongers remains unclear.
For example, national security agencies said after receiving a residency application from highly controversial film producer Charles Heung (向華強) that the government would not automatically approve every application.
The authorities are to be commended for remaining wary and maintaining strict entry controls.
Chen Yung-chang is the manager of a private company.
Translated by Julian Clegg
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