Taipei, May 30, 2020
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen has asked her Cabinet Ministers to prepare an Action Plan as soon to assist the people of Hong Kong keen to move to Taiwan.
“Our commitment to caring for the people of Hong Kong will not change, no matter what adjustments we make to our system,” she said.
The Taiwanese government is also facilitating Hongkongers who are interested in seeking employment and residency in the country.
Ms Tsai posted these comments on her official Facebook and Twitter accounts following the return of protests in Hong Kong over a planned move by China to impose a National Security Law on the region, which was a British Colony until 1997.
Taiwan is among the growing list of countries to extend sympathy and support to Hongkongers. The US and UK have already expressed similar moves.
Expressing concern over the developments in Hong Kong, Ms Tsai said that the government and people of Taiwan fully support the desire of Hongkongers for freedom and human rights.
“A democratic and free Hong Kong is key to regional peace and stability,” Ms Tsai said.
The Taiwanese government has welcomed people from Hong Kong for many years, she said, and added that more than 5000 Hongkongers applied for residency in Taiwan in 2019, an increase of 41% over the previous year.
Ms Tsai called on China to keep its promise that Hong Kong would enjoy a high degree of autonomy and its way of life would remain unchanged for 50 years following the end of UK rule in 1997.
She also urged Beijing to halt the controversial National Security legislation and resume peaceful dialogue with Hong Kong society.
The problem in Hong Kong
Hong Kong was handed back to China from British control in 1997, but under a unique agreement – a mini-constitution called the Basic Law and a so-called “one country, two systems” principle.
As the BBC mentioned, the statutes are supposed to protect certain freedoms for Hong Kong: freedom of assembly and speech, an independent judiciary and some democratic rights – freedoms that no other part of mainland China has.
“Under the same agreement, Hong Kong had to enact is own national security law – this was set out in Article 23 of the Basic Law. But its unpopularity means it has never been done – the government tried in 2003 but had to back down after protests.”
Then, last year, protests over an extradition law turned violent and evolved into a broader anti-China and pro-democracy movement.
China does not want to see that happen again.
Why are people in Hong Kong afraid?
As the law has not even been drafted yet, it is hard to be concrete, but essentially people in Hong Kong fear the loss of these freedoms.
BBC News says: “China expert Willy Lam is concerned the law could see people punished for criticising Beijing – as happens in mainland China. People believe this will affect free speech and their right to protest. In China, this would be seen as subversion. Some pro-democracy activists, such as Joshua Wong, have been lobbying foreign governments to help their cause. Such campaigning could be a crime in the future.”
Hong Kong University Legal Scholar Professor Johannes Chan said that many are also afraid Hong Kong’s judicial system will become like that of China.
“Almost all trials involving national security are conducted behind closed doors. It [is] never clear what exactly the allegations and the evidence are, and the term national security is so vague that it could cover almost anything,” he said.
People worry that a threat to Hong Kong’s liberties could affect its attractiveness as a business and economic powerhouse.
So can China just push this through?
The Basic Law says Chinese laws cannot be applied in Hong Kong unless they are listed in a section called Annex III.
There are already a few listed there, mostly uncontroversial and around foreign policy.
These laws can be introduced by decree, which means that they bypass the City’s Parliament and Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam has already said that she will cooperate.