TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwan's Cabinet will set up a special working group to formulate a "humanitarian action plan" in response to a potential influx of Hongkongers into Taiwan, said President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) on Thursday (May 27), as Beijing moved to expand its encroachment over the territory's autonomy with a contentious security law currently under draft.
The government's "determination to take care of the Hong Kong people is certain and abiding," said Tsai, even though her attitude on whether the government would amend the legislation governing Taiwan's relationship with Hong Kong and Macau remains ambiguous. The working group will mull over comprehensive and clear mechanisms, including the allocation of government resources and budgets, which are intended to help Hong Kong people seeking residency and protection in Taiwan, she added.
The group will be led by the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC), the top government agency handling cross-strait affairs, said Tsai. She added that such a decision was made after her meeting in the morning with Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌).
"We also express our solemn concern over further compression of Hong Kong's autonomy, human rights, and freedoms," said Tsai, urging Chinese authorities to halt their plan to push ahead with a national security law for the semi-autonomous territory. Hong Kong's autonomy is critical to the peace and stability of the region, stated Tsai, who added that the government will continue to support Hong Kong protesters' pursuit of democracy and freedom.
Tsai earlier has reaffirmed the government's willingness to offer "necessary assistance" to those Hong Kong people who may consider fleeing to Taiwan for fear of being detained and even prosecuted for their involvement in the anti-government protests. She has, on the other hand, also hinted at the possibility of partially or even entirely revoking the Laws and Regulations Regarding Hong Kong & Macao Affairs, which she helped draft as the head of the MAC on the eve of the U.K.'s handover of Hong Kong's sovereignty to Beijing in 1997.
Civil groups in Taiwan, as well as prominent political figures in Hong Kong, such as Joshua Wong, have been calling on the Tsai administration to either draft a refugee act or amend the existing Hong Kong affairs-related law in order to help the city's pro-democracy protesters obtain long-term permission to stay in Taiwan. Tsai has maintained that the current law is sufficient to provide assistance to the Hong Kong people.
Under the current legislation, Hong Kong citizens may be granted visas and residence permits much more easily than Chinese people; notable Hong Kong figures, including Lam Wing-kee (林榮基), the founder of Causeway Bay Bookstore, have been allowed to stay in Taiwan under the same legal structure. However, advocates of a legislative amendment argue that the vague and ambiguous nature of the existing law has rendered many Hongkongers helpless and compromised government efficiency.
Beijing last week announced its plan to draft a national security law for Hong Kong in the National People's Congress, a rubber-stamp legislature, while circumventing the city's regular legislative procedures. The bill, which is likely to prohibit activities Beijing designates as related to secession, sedition, terrorism, and foreign inference, appears to be taking aim at the pro-democracy protest movement that had roiled Hong Kong for much of the past year.