Taiwan will devise a settlement plan for Hongkongers who have been pushing for freedom and democracy, President Tsai Ing-wen has said, as a controversial national security law looms.

Tsai wrote on Facebook on Wednesday that the country’s executive branch would devise a humanitarian aid action plan for Hongkongers as the city’s autonomy was being undermined: “The Executive Yuan will propose a comprehensive and concrete plan as soon as possible. The plan includes Hongkongers’ right of abode and settlement,” she wrote, adding that Taiwan’s commitment to caring for Hongkongers remained unchanged.

Tsai Ing-wen
Taiwan’s leader Tsai Ing-wen. File Photo: Taiwan Gov’t.

“If the situation in Hong Kong worsens, and its autonomy and human rights are further suppressed, we will resolutely voice our concerns… We will continue to support Hongkongers’ determination to strive for democracy and freedom which are paramount to its peace and stability.”

Tsai also mentioned that the country has adopted looser measures for Hongkongers who are seeking to immigrate to Taiwan, resulting in more than 5,000 people moving to the island last year – a 41 per cent increase compared to the previous year.

Taiwan does not accept refugee applications but Hongkongers can live there with investment or work visas. An immigration consultancy company previously noted an overnight ten-fold increase in enquiries about moving to Taiwan after Beijing announced its plan to draft the national security law.

In June 2020, Beijing inserted national security legislation directly into Hong Kong’s mini-constitution – bypassing the local legislature – following a year of pro-democracy protests and unrest. It criminalised subversion, secession, collusion with foreign forces and terrorist acts, which were broadly defined to include disruption to transport and other infrastructure. The move gave police sweeping new powers, alarming democrats, civil society groups and trade partners, as such laws have been used broadly to silence and punish dissidents in China. However, the authorities say it has restored stability and peace to the city.

US action

On Wednesday, US Secretary of State Mike declared that Hong Kong no longer enjoys the autonomy promised by Beijing, stripping the financial hub of its special status under US law.

Earlier in the day, pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong of Demosisto told HKFP that officials who pushed forward the national security law legislation will be targeted in US follow-up action: “Now is the time for Beijing to realise that if they… erode the uniqueness of Hong Kong they will face lots of backfire not only from HK local community but [also] from the global community,” Wong said.

joshua wong sunny cheung
Joshua Wong and Sunny Cheung. Photo: Rachel Wong/HKFP.

“We urge US president Trump and Secretary Pompeo to execute the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act as soon as possible,” he added. “European countries should also enhance sanction mechanisms under the framework of global Magnitsky Act.”

His colleague Sunny Cheung added that limiting the capital flow of China’s state-owned enterprises would exert pressure on Beijing: “[T]he fatal blow to the Communist Party [would be] to limit the capital flow especially in terms of US currency used by the state-owned companies in China.”

Rachel Wong previously worked as a documentary producer and academic researcher. She has a BA in Comparative Literature and European Studies from the University of Hong Kong. She has contributed to A City Made by People and The Funambulist, and has an interest in cultural journalism and gender issues.