Taiwan to set up special office to help Hong Kong asylum seekers

CNA file photo

TAIPEI (CNA) — The Taiwan government will establish an office in Taipei next month to offer humanitarian assistance to Hong Kongers, including those who wish to seek asylum, Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) Minister Chen Ming-tong (陳明通) said Thursday.

The office will open July 1 under the Taiwan-Hong Kong Economic and Cultural Co-operation Council, a semi-official organization founded by the government in 2010 to handle communications with Hong Kong authorities, Chen said.

The new Taiwan-Hong Kong Services and Exchanges Office will have three sections, for consultation services, project management, and administration, Chen said at a press conference.

Located in Taipei, the office will offer consultations to Hong Kong-based businesses and NGOs that wish to relocate to Taiwan, Chen said.

In addition, the office will provide a one-stop service to Hong Kongers who wish to study, conduct business, make investments, or seek asylum in Taiwan, he said.

Although Taiwan does not have a specific refugee law, Article 18 of its “Laws and Regulations Regarding Hong Kong and Macao Affairs” allows the government to offer “necessary assistance” to people in Hong Kong and Macau whose safety and liberty are at immediate risk due to political factors.

Under that article of the law, applications from Hong Kong asylum seekers will be accepted by the new office and screened by the MAC and other relevant government agencies on an individual basis, Chen said.

Hong Kongers wishing to contact the office will be able to call two hotlines — 2700-3799 and 2397-1088 – for consultations, he said.

According to Chen, the aim of the government in setting up the office is to work with the private sector to assist Hong Kongers, while ensuring that Taiwan’s national security is not jeopardized.

The decision to establish the new office followed a directive by President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) to the MAC last month to devise a plan to facilitate “residency rights, settlement and social assistance” with regard to Hong Kongers arriving in Taiwan.

The directive was issued after China’s National People’s Congress approved the drafting of a national security law for Hong Kong last month, a decision that is expected to spur an exodus of people from the special administrative territory.

When enacted, the law will prohibit acts of secession, subversion, terrorism and conspiring with foreign influences in Hong Kong and will open the doors there to Mainland China security forces.

It is widely seen as an effort by the Chinese government to take full control of Hong Kong after a year of pro-democracy protests there.