TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- As the anti-extradition bill protests rage on in Hong Kong, the number of Hong Kong citizens immigrating to Taiwan has surged by 28 percent this year.
As clashes between Hong Kong protesters and police continue to flare up, and Beijing is showing no signs of backing down, immigration from the special administrative region to Taiwan has increased by 28 percent from January to July of this year, according to data from Taiwan's Ministry of the Interior. In addition, a Bloomberg report found that 9.4 percent of all new immigrants in Taiwan in the first half of this year were from Hong Kong.
Bloomberg reported that entrepreneurs, salespeople, and managers seeking higher social status said they believed that democratic Taiwan had a better quality of life than Hong Kong, including cheaper housing prices, more jobs, and a safer living environment. Steven Chen, a 37-year-old retail salesman in Hong Kong, said, "I want to move to Taiwan because Hong Kong is in a period of white terror and ruled by the police, which scares me."
He said that since July 1, he has participated in every Hong Kong street anti-extradition bill protest, during one of which he was almost hit by a plastic bullet, and he felt that his life and safety were threatened. Chen said, "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."
Chen also said that he borrowed NT$6 million from relatives and friends and applied for a permanent residence permit from the Taiwanese government through the investment immigration program.
Norris Lo, a 34-year-old from Hong Kong, is also planning to apply with her husband to immigrate to Taiwan, and plans to open a bakery in Taichung next year. They had previously considered moving to Australia or New Zealand, but eventually chose to settle in Taiwan because they found it more affordable.
Lo, a pastry chef, said, "We want to open a small store of our own, and it’s impossible to do so in Hong Kong." She said that the cost of living in Hong Kong's financial center is too high and the environment is too crowded.
"We don’t see any light at the end of the tunnel," said Lo. "If we could see a better future in the next 10 or 20 years, we would be willing to wait. But we don’t see it," Lo told Bloomberg.
Before the outbreak of the protests, a survey released by the Chinese University of Hong Kong at the end of last year showed that Taiwan was the third most popular destination for Hong Kong people to emigrate to, after Canada and Australia.
The trend of Hong Kong citizens emigrating to Taiwan is likely to continue to increase, as the Taiwan government does not set application quotas for Hong Kong people and is open to receiving more Hong Kong immigrants.
"We welcome them," said Taiwan's Minister of the Interior Hsu Kuo-yung (徐國勇), reported CNA. He added that immigration applications from Hong Kong have increased by at least 30 percent in recent weeks.
According to Apple Daily, dozens of protestors who participated in the occupation of Hong Kong's Legislative Council Building in early July have sought asylum in Taiwan. Previously, Lam Wing Kee (林榮基), a well-known Hong Kong dissident and former owner of Causeway Bay Books, also chose to leave Hong Kong for Taiwan because of his opposition to the extradition law, which is now causing serious conflict in Hong Kong.
In recent months, anti-government protests and demonstrations have swept across the former British colony amid fears that Beijing authorities are eroding and undermining Hong Kong's autonomy.