As China pushes back against pro-democracy forces in Hong Kong, Taiwan is preparing to receive possibly thousands of people fleeing the city.
Anti-government protests in Hong Kong have won deep sympathy in democratic Taiwan. But Taiwan does not have a lot of experience with refugees. It is also worried about Chinese spies who might try to join them.
Taiwan was established in 1949, when Chinese Nationalists fled to the island and set up a government after losing to communist forces taking over China’s mainland. The People’s Republic of China does not recognize the government of Taiwan.
Hong Kong was a British colony until 1997, when it was returned to China. At the time, both Britain and China agreed to respect Hong Kong’s democracy.
Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen last month became the first government leader to promise to help Hong Kong people who leave because of tightening Chinese controls. China has written new national security legislation that many see as undemocratic. In Hong Kong, there have been large anti-China demonstrations for more than a year.
China denies it is anti-democratic and has condemned Tsai’s offer to Hong Kong people.
Taiwan is working on a humanitarian aid plan for the new arrivals, officials say. The plan would include money for living needs and housing, a government official told Reuters.
“Hong Kong no doubt is a priority for Tsai,” another Taiwanese official told the news agency.
No one knows how many people might flee. But Taiwan does not expect the number to be greater than the thousands who came from then-South Vietnam during the communist takeover in the 1970s.
Nearly 200 Hong Kong people have fled to Taiwan since protests began last year. So far, about 10 percent have been given visas under a law that protects activists from Hong Kong, said Shih Yi-hsiang. He is with the Taiwan Association for Human Rights.
For now, very few are making the move since Taiwan has barred all new arrivals to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Shih expects the number to increase when the ban is lifted.
Taiwan is very worried that China will send in spies pretending to be activists from Hong Kong. Taiwan’s government was looking for experts to help research people’s history in an effort to prevent spies from entering, one official said.
China’s Taiwan Affairs Office did not answer a request for comment.
A Taipei-based Western diplomat told Reuters that Taiwan was most likely to get the most extreme protesters and those with little money. Those with money, he said, would probably choose to go to other countries such as Canada or Britain.
Tyrant Lau was released last month from an eight-month sentence in Hong Kong for possession of weapons. He welcomed Tsai’s offer. He said he wants to go to Taiwan because of its democracy and low cost of living.
“It’s the only hope for protesters who can’t afford moving to other places,” he said in Hong Kong. He is waiting for the border to open.
“I hope I can live a normal life in Taiwan. I’ve forgotten what a normal life is like.”
I’m Susan Shand.
The Reuters News Agency reported this story. Susan Shand adapted it for Learning English. Bryan Lynn was the editor.
Words in This Story
doubt – n. to believe something is probably not true
priority– n. the most important thing
pretend– v. to make believe or to act falsely
afford – v. to have the money to pay for something