Taiwan unveils plan to help Hong Kongers looking to leave

A Hong Kong protester in Taiwan waves a flag to mark the first anniversary of a mass rally in Hong Kong against the now-withdrawn extradition bill at Democracy Square in in Taipei, Taiwan, Saturday, June 13, 2020. (AP Photo/Chiang Ying-ying)

HONG KONG — Taiwan announced Thursday that it will set up a specialized office to support Hong Kongers seeking to leave the territory now that China is moving forward with a national security law for Hong Kong that critics see as an erosion of its freedoms.

The office opening July 1 will offer assistance to Hong Kong professionals seeking to move to Taiwan, including for school, employment, investment, entrepreneurship and immigration, according to a statement by the Mainland Affairs Council in Taiwan, which handles the island’s relations with Beijing.

Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen in May called for a plan to help Hong Kongers after China’s ceremonial parliament decided to enact the national security law in the semi-autonomous city.

Beijing says the national security legislation is aimed at curbing subversive and secessionist activity in Hong Kong, after months of anti-government protests last year saw violent clashes between police and protesters. Critics say that the law will erode freedoms promised to the former British colony and may be used to curb dissent.

The Taiwan government will fund the new office, which will work with non-profit organizations to offer assistance, protection, as well as a basic allowance for immigrants from Hong Kong, including those who have fled due to political reasons, the statement said.

The plan to help Hong Kongers demonstrates the government’s support for the “protection of democracy, freedom and human rights of the Hong Kong people,” the statement read.

Chen Ming-tong, minister of Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council, said that given the situation in Hong Kong, it is a “great opportunity for Taiwan to attract talent.”

Although Taiwan is self-governed, Beijing and most of the world recognize it as part of China.

Since the anti-government protests in Hong Kong began, more Hong Kongers have sought to move to Taiwan, including several protesters who fear prosecution if they remained in the city.