Tsai in humanitarian race as unrest exodus pace quickens

Local | Cissy So 28 May 2020

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen yesterday pledged to draw up plans to offer humanitarian relief for people involved in Hong Kong's pro-democracy protests, in what is said to be Taipei's most concrete intervention since the renewal of unrest in the SAR.

More than 20 protesters have been granted residency rights by Taiwan so far, as its president said there will be cross-departmental efforts to help Hongkongers.

The Mainland Affairs Council is working on a "humanitarian" plan for Hongkongers, she said yesterday after a discussion with Premier Su Tseng-chang.

Tsai said the government will fund the plan, which is expected to focus on residency rights, accommodation and care for Hongkongers seeking a safe haven. She also hoped the council will roll out the plan as soon as possible.

Tsai called on Beijing to pull back from the brink, to not violate promises that had "remain unchanged for 50 years" and allow "Hong Kong people [to rule] Hong Kong."

"If the situation in Hong Kong worsens, with its autonomy and human rights being further compressed, then we must also express our concerns and we will continue to support Hong Kong protesters' pursuit of democracy and freedom as they are important factors for regional peace and stability," Tsai said.

She noted that Taiwan has been relatively lenient with Hongkongers moving to Taiwan, with more than 5,000 moving there last year, a 41 percent increase.

Tsai was questioned over her support for Hongkongers after she said on Sunday that Taiwan could revoke the Laws and Regulations Regarding Hong Kong and Macau Affairs, under which Hongkongers may seek assistance in Taiwan, if any changes of concern occurred in Hong Kong.

However, she later clarified her previous statement in a Facebook post yesterday.

"I have to reemphasize that no matter how the system is changed, our determination to take care of Hong Kong people is unchanged," Tsai said.

Taiwan Association for Human Rights secretary-general Shih Yi-Hsiang said on Tuesday that more than 200 Hong Kong protesters had fled to Taiwan.

About one tenth had passed the joint review between the council and the immigration department, meaning some 20 had obtained the right of abode under Article 18 of the laws and regulations.

The article states that: "necessary assistance shall be provided to Hong Kong or Macau residents whose safety and liberty are immediately threatened for political reasons."

However, Taiwanese media report that many more Hongkongers are likely to seek Taiwan residency as the unrest continues.

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