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Taiwan to ease residency rules for those fleeing Hong Kong

Changes could help lower the barriers for entry that remain for many Hong Kongers

A young woman holds a candle at a vigil at Victoria Park in Hong Kong. (AP Photo)

A young woman holds a candle at a vigil at Victoria Park in Hong Kong. (AP Photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — In a show of support for dissenters fleeing Hong Kong, Taiwan has announced plans to allow people from Asia’s leading finance hub to extend their stay in Taiwan.

Individuals from Hong Kong and Macau who are currently studying or working in Taiwan will be able to lengthen their residence permits for up to one year while looking for employment, the draft amendments indicate.

The new rules, first posted on the website of Taiwan’s Ministry of the Interior this week, will also make it easier for students to gain permanent residency after completing advanced degrees in the country, according to a Bloomberg report. The changes could come into effect as soon as next year.

The proposals come as the Hong Kong authorities expand their crackdown on dissent to trade unions, charities, filmmakers and professional associations — including for journalists — that engage in what the government deems “political” activities. Taipei’s move is likely to elicit an angry response from the Chinese government, which has long criticized Taiwan's support for Hong Kong’s pro-democracy camp as interference in its attempts to quell unrest in the city.

Alongside the U.K., Taiwan has become a priority destination for Hongkongers seeking to get away from the repression and to life start over again in a new country.

In 2020, the number of Hongkongers moving to Taiwan doubled from 2019, surpassing 10,000, according to other reports, while 6,150 gained residency between January and August this year, according to statistics from the National Immigration Agency.

While President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) has been a vocal supporter of Hong Kong’s protesters, her administration has faced criticism from activists who say Hong Kong people still face too many hurdles in moving to Taiwan long-term.

Many Hong Kong residents are stuck in Taiwan without a clear pathway to residency. Obstacles include severely understaffed bureaucracy combined with a tendency for immigration officers to overlook applications from small businesses owners in favor of finance or hi-tech professionals, according to a Commonwealth report.