Hongkongers pour into Taiwan in search of freedom

Taiwan appears to be a preferred alternative for Hong Kong people looking to start over

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A pro-democracy supporter waves a flag during a rally in Hong Kong.

A pro-democracy supporter waves a flag during a rally in Hong Kong. (AP photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A growing number of Hong Kong residents are fleeing to Taiwan in pursuit of freedom and away from uncertainties triggered by the months-long protests at home.

The number of Hongkongers granted temporary and permanent residency in Taiwan shot up to more than 4,000 between January and September, a 30 percent increase compared to last year, reported AFP.

Taiwan is one of the preferred places for people of the semi-autonomous Chinese territory to consider moving to due to its close proximity and freedoms. The appeal of the island nation has been boosted in recent years as Beijing tightens its control over Hong Kong, reported NPR.

"In Taiwan, freedom of speech is in the present tense. People can elect the president and lawmakers,” said a 41-year-old Hongkonger who relocated to Kaohsiung in July. "I think the tightening on freedom will continue in Hong Kong until it's 'one country, one system'," lamented Chow Chung-ming, a system analyst who immigrated to Taiwan through an investment scheme requiring NT$6 million (US$196,786) in investments, wrote AFP.

The debate over whether or not to grant Hong Kong protestors asylum has also been revived in Taiwan. The country can currently only deal with such issues via the Laws and Regulations Regarding Hong Kong & Macao Affairs.

The effort to push for a refugee law has met with numerous obstacles, as Taiwan is wary that Chinese spies and conspirators could exploit such legislation to enter the island nation. "A democracy like Taiwan has different concerns sitting next to authoritarian China,” NPR quoted one Democratic Progressive Party legislator as saying.