Taiwan Scrambles to Ready for Influx From Hong Kong Protests

TAIPEI/HONG KONG—Taiwan is gearing up to welcome Hong Kong people fleeing their city as China tightens its grip, but the island has little experience of handling refugees and is scrambling to prepare and to keep out any Chinese spies who might try to join the influx.

Year-long anti-government protests in Hong Kong have won widespread sympathy in democratic and Chinese-claimed Taiwan, which has welcomed those who have already come and expects more.

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen last month became the first government leader anywhere to pledge measures to help Hong Kong people who leave due to what they see as tightening Chinese controls, including newly introduced national security legislation, smothering their democratic aspirations.

China denies stifling Hong Kongs freedoms and has condemned Tsais offer.

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Protesters holding banners in support of Hong Kong pro-democracy demonstrators attend a rally against the Chinese governments newly announced national security legislation for Hong Kong, at Taipei main train station in Taiwan on May 23, 2020. (Ben Blanchard/Reuters)

Taiwan, for decades just as wary of the mainland as many in the former British colony of Hong Kong are, is working on a humanitarian relief plan for the expected arrivals, officials say.

“Hong Kong no doubt is a priority for Tsai,” a senior government official familiar with the presidents thinking told Reuters, adding that the administration was setting aside resources to handle Hong Kong people.

The plan would include a monthly allowance for living and rent and shelter for those unable to find accommodation, said a second person with direct knowledge of the preparations.

Hong Kong anti-government protesters attend a rally in support of Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen outside the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) headquarters in Taipei
Hong Kong anti-government protesters attend a rally in support of Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen outside the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) headquarters in Taipei
Hong Kong anti-government protesters attend a rally in support of Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen outside the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) headquarters in Taipei, Taiwan, on Jan. 11, 2020. (Tyrone Siu/Reuters)

It is too early to gauge how many might come but Taiwan does not expect the number to be more than the thousands of people who came from Vietnam from the mid-1970s, most fleeing the communist takeover of what had been U.S.-backed South Vietnam.

Nearly 200 Hong Kong people have fled to Taiwan since protests flared last year and about 10 percent have been granted visas under a law that protects Hong Kong people who are at risk for political reasons, said Shih Yi-hsiang of the Taiwan Association for Human Rights.

For now, anyone thinking of making the move has to wait as Taiwan has barred Hong Kong people as part of its effort to block the CCP (Chiense Communist Party) virus but Shih expects the number to jump once the ban is lifted.

Very Complicated

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Hong Kong anti-government demonstrators gather at Liberty Square in Taipei to mark the 31st anniversary of the crackdown of pro-democracy protests at Beijings Tiananmen Square in 1989, Taiwan, on June 4, 2020. (Ann Wang/Reuters)

With little experience of refugees since the 1970s and with worries that China could infiltrate spies posing as activists, the government was urgently looking for experts to vet backgrounds, the second source said.

“This is a very complicated scenario that Taiwan governmeRead More – Source