Taiwan sees rise in immigration from Hong Kong amid national security crackdown

The democratic island of Taiwan is expecting a new wave of arrivals from the former British colony of Hong Kong, where the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is presiding over a city-wide crackdown on civil society, public dissent and political opposition under a draconian national security law.

The latest statistics from the Taiwan Immigration Department indicate that number of Hong Kong residents emigrating to Taiwan hit a new high in 2021, the island’s Mainland Affairs Commission (MAC) spokesman Chiu Chui-cheng told reporters on Friday.

The island’s interior ministry handed out 9,772 residence cards to Hong Kong residents between January and November 2021, compared with 9,501 in the same period in 2020.

Permanent residency was awarded to 1,572 Hongkongers, compared with 1,397 in the same period the previous year.

“We have made some draft amendments to the rules … in line with talent recruitment regulations to extend the period of residency [for students] past the completion of their masters and doctorate degrees,” Chiu said. “The draft changes have been … sent to the Executive Yuan for review.”

“I expect their implementation to be announced soon,” Chiu said.

Immigration consultant Chang Hsiang-ling said more Hongkongers might have applied if it weren’t for the island’s stringent COVID-19 restrictions on entry and exits, but that the new rules might pave the way for more arrivals in future.

“It is easier to come from Hong Kong that it was before the handover,” Chang told RFA. “But people who have only just obtained their Hong Kong permanent residency might not be approved for residence at the current time.”

“They will look at applications from people born in mainland China to see how long that person has lived in Hong Kong, and whether their entire life’s focus is in Hong Kong,” he said.

He said former Hong Kong public servants who had already taken a mandatory oath of allegiance to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) could be rejected by Taiwan, unless they were employees of the Hospital Authority, serving in public healthcare facilities.

“If you or even your accompanying spouse have taken such an oath, you will be turned down for residency at the current time,” Chang said.

People waving goodbye as a family makes their way through the departure gates of Hong Kong's International Airport, July 22, 2021. Credit: AFP
People waving goodbye as a family makes their way through the departure gates of Hong Kong’s International Airport, July 22, 2021. Credit: AFP

Media, church crackdowns

He said the authorities are still adopting a conservative attitude to applications for investment visas from Hongkongers with money, however, and risk putting off potential investors in Taiwan’s economy.

The news comes amid a public outcry over raids and arrests by national security police at Stand News, a major pro-democracy news outlet in the city. Two senior editors at the publication have been charged with “sedition” under colonial-era laws, while the website’s assets were frozen under provisions in the national security law, prompting it to fold and lay off all staff.

Meanwhile, Reuters reported that Chinese bishops and religious leaders have been training senior Hong Kong Catholic clergymen on President Xi Jinping’s vision of religion with “Chinese characteristics.”

The agency quoted four clerics who attended or had knowledge of the Oct. 31 meeting as saying it was clearly an attempt to put political pressure on the Hong Kong diocese, which is answerable to the Vatican and includes some outspoken leaders who have been critical of the CCP and the crackdown on Hong Kong’s promised freedoms.

The Zoom meetings shed light on what some religious figures, politicians and diplomats describe as the expanding role of Beijing’s Central Government Liaison Office in Hong Kong, which monitored the sessions attended by three leading bishops, about 15 religious figures from mainland China’s state-backed official Catholic church and about 15 senior clergymen, the report said.

Susanne Ho, a spokeswoman for the Hong Kong Catholic Diocese, told Reuters the diocese “does not disclose details of private meetings,” while the Central Liaison Office didn’t respond to requests for comment.

The CCP under general secretary Xi Jinping regards Christianity as a dangerous foreign import, with party documents warning against the “infiltration of Western hostile forces” in the form of religion.

The party, which embraces atheism, exercises tight controls over any form of religious practice among its citizens.

Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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