Emigrating Hongkongers pick Taiwan over S'pore as immigration destination

It's the fourth most popular destination for Hongkongers, after Australia, the U.S. and Canada.

Matthias Ang | August 21, 2019, 10:10 AM

Singapore is not the only location that Hongkongers are considering moving to as protests in the Special Administrative Region grind on.

Taiwan is fourth most popular destination for Hongkongers

According to Bloomberg, immigration to Taiwan has risen by 28 percent for the first seven months of 2019, fuelled in part by the recent protests that begun in June.

The Hong Kong Economic Journal reported that Taiwan is the fourth most popular destination for Hongkongers to move to, after Australia, the United States and Canada, even before the protests began.

For its part, Taiwan has since stated that it welcomed Hongkongers moving to Taiwan, Taiwanese media Central News Agency reported.

Its Minister of the Interior, Hsu Kuo-yung, said: "We welcome them."

Why move to Taiwan?

HKEJ reported Taiwan has affordable housing, given that the median home price in Taipei is US$900 per square foot, about a quarter of Hong Kong's current historically high price of US$3,570 per square foot.

The legalisation of same-sex marriage and the ability of Taiwanese to vote directly for their leaders were also cited as further reasons.

Additionally, business opportunities and a safer living environment, with a better quality of life, also makes the place a draw for entrepreneurs, salespeople and managers, Bloomberg further reported.

A 37-year-old retail salesperson, Steven Chen, was quoted as saying: "I want to move to Taiwan because Hong Kong is in a period of white terror and ruled by the police, which scares me."

"I saw no future for the city when it returned to China some 20 years ago, but now it’s dangerous to live in as the police are not protecting people."

He added that he had since borrowed money from his friends and family, to come up with the NT$6 million (S$264,600) required for Hong Kong citizens applying for residency through a Taiwanese government investment scheme.

How many Hongkongers have moved to Taiwan so far?

As of Aug. 11, 1,935 out of 2,027 applications by Hongkongers to either move or stay in Taiwan had been approved by the Taiwanese National Immigration Agency, South China Morning Post reported.

This is an increase of about 14 percent from the same period in 2018.

Of the 1,935 successful applications, 842 were specifically for residency.

Additionally, 681 of the total number of applications were filed in the period between June and July, with 636 of the applications receiving approval.

This marks an increase of 45.5 percent and 57.4 percent respectively, from the same period in 2018.

Unclear if any Hongkongers have applied for political asylum

A spokesman for Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council said that government agencies were generally willing to help applicants and that no Hongkongers had applied for political asylum thus far.

The spokesperson said: "Based on our humanitarian spirit and respect for human rights, the government will provide assistance to specific individuals on a case-by-case basis."

However, his remarks contradicted an earlier report in July, by Hong Kong media Apple Daily, which reported that 30 protesters involved in the storming of Hong Kong’s Legislative Council had fled to Taiwan to seek asylum.

In citing unnamed sources, Apple Daily reported that most of the protesters who had fled for Taiwan were students.

Taiwan has received political refugees from Hong Kong before

That's not to say Taiwan hasn't received political refugees from Hong Kong.

One such refugee is Hong Kong bookseller Lam Wing-kee.

After disappearing into Chinese custody for about half a year at the end of 2015, he fled to Taiwan in April this year.

Taiwan has extended his visa to late October, Radio Taiwan International reported.

Taiwan does not have formal refugee laws, but is planning an asylum law.

As compared to other entities or countries, Taiwan’s entry and residency rules for Hongkongers are more lenient.

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Top photo of Shifen Old Street, Taiwan via Unsplash