This article was originally published by Radio Free Asia and is reprinted with permission.
Authorities in Taiwan on Thursday set out plans to make the democratic island a safe haven for Hongkongers fearing a crackdown on dissent by China’s feared state security police.
The Taiwan government unveiled plans to set up an office offering humanitarian assistance to Hongkongers, including those who wish to seek asylum, the island’s Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) minister Chen Ming-tong said.
“The office will open for business on July 1,” Chen told journalists. The date is the anniversary of the 1997 handover of Hong Kong Chinese rule, a date that has seen multiple mass protest marches since 2003.
Operating under the semi-official Taiwan-Hong Kong Economic and Cultural Co-operation Council, the new office will offer consultations to Hong Kong-based businesses and NGOs that wish to relocate to Taiwan, Chen said.
It will also offer a one-stop service and helplines aimed at residents of Hong Kong wanting to study, do business, or seek asylum in Taiwan, he said.
While Taiwan has no laws governing refugees or asylum-seekers, the office will implement a law allowing the authorities to offer “necessary assistance” to people from Hong Kong and Macau whose safety and liberty are at immediate risk for political reasons.
There is broad, cross-party support for the plan, which comes as Beijing moves to impose a draconian sedition and subversion law on Hong Kong, bypassing the city’s Legislative Council (LegCo).
Taiwan president Tsai Ing-wen and members of the country’s parliament, the Legislative Yuan, have said they expect the national security law will lead to a rapid deterioriation in Hong Kong’s situation.
Call for more details
Lam Hong-jun, of the Taiwan-based group Hong Kong Outlanders, called for further details about the legal status of the office.
“What kind of legal status will those applicants have, given that this is a non-government organization?” Lam said. “We are in the process of trying to figure this out in detail.”
“We would still hope that there would be another channel to deal with Hongkongers who enter Taiwan illegally,” he said. “There may be people who have to leave in a hurry because they are in danger or at risk in some way.”
“They may not be able to avail themselves of legal channels to leave [Hong Kong].”
The draft National Security Law for Hong Kong was submitted to the National People’s Congress (NPC) standing committee on Thursday, state media reported.
It will outlaw “acts of secession, subversion of state power, terrorist activities, and collusion with foreign or external forces that endanger national security,” according to Chinese state news agency Xinhua.
In a move widely condemned by foreign governments and rights groups as signaling the end of Hong Kong’s autonomy and status as a separate legal jurisdiction, rights groups and foreign governments say the law will pave the way for further political prosecutions of peaceful critics of the government, democracy campaigners, and rights activists.
It will also allow China’s feared state security police to operate in Hong Kong, a move which was explicitly banned by the city’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law.