60% support for law amendments to help HK asylum seekers: poll

The NPP's press event on Sunday.

TAIPEI (CNA) — Sixty percent of respondents in a poll released Sunday said Taiwan’s government should amend its laws to better offer assistance to people in Hong Kong who wish to seek asylum in the country, despite officials claiming existing regulations are fit for purpose.

According to the survey conducted by trend Survey and Research Co., Ltd. for the opposition New Power Party (NPP), 60.3 percent of respondents said the government should amend the “Laws and Regulations Regarding Hong Kong and Macao Affairs” to make it easier to meet the practical needs of asylum seekers from Hong Kong.

The survey was released after China’s National People’s Congress approved the drafting of a national security law for Hong Kong on Thursday.

The proposed law, when enacted, will prohibit acts of secession, subversion, terrorism and conspiring with foreign influences in Hong Kong, and allow Beijing’s security forces to operate in the region.

Such a law is widely seen as an effort by the Chinese government to take full control of Hong Kong after a year of pro-democracy protests in the special administrative region.

Although Taiwan has no refugee law, Article 18 of the “Laws and Regulations Regarding Hong Kong and Macao Affairs” stipulates that the government can offer “necessary assistance” to people in the two special territories “whose safety and liberty are immediately threatened for political reasons.”

As political unrest continues in Hong Kong, the NPP and other opposition parties in Taiwan are arguing that this article should be amended to provide clearer and more specific guidelines regarding asylum seekers from the two territories.

However, the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration insists existing laws are adequate.

In the meantime, Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council, the government agency in charge of cross-Taiwan Strait affairs, is drafting an action plan to facilitate “residency rights, settlement and social assistance” for Hong Kongers arriving in the country.

The plan is expected to be completed later this week before being made public and officially rolled out, according to the agency.

Meanwhile, in the same NPP survey, 41 percent of respondents said the wording in the Additional Articles of the Republic of China (Taiwan’s formal name) Constitution that promotes cross-strait unification should be among the top priorities when the country amends its Constitution.

Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan has already announced that it will form a cross-party constitution amendment committee at its next legislative session starting September to propose constitutional amendments, the main purpose being to lower the voting age.

The ruling DPP and opposition parties agree that the voting age should be lowered from 20 to 18 and have already listed that as their top priority.

However, removing those parts of the Constitution that promote cross-strait unification is a controversial issue and no consensus has been reached over the matter so far.

The survey was conducted May 25-26 through telephone interviews of people aged 20 and over randomly selected in counties and cities around Taiwan, according to the NPP.

There were 811 valid samples collected and the survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.44 percentage points, it noted.