China's Takeover Drives Hong Kong Residents to Taiwan Despite Invasion Threat

The number of Hong Kong residents seeking emigration to Taiwan has reached new highs since China passed its national security law this summer, a new report said today.

Applicants include professionals in industry and academia, but civil servants currently serving in the Hong Kong government have also joined the waiting list, according to World Journal, the largest Chinese-language newspaper in the United States.

Citing the latest figures from the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Hong Kong, as well as local immigration service providers, the report said there had been a marked increase in immigration paper submissions since the anti‑extradition bill protests in June 2019, despite Taiwan's own precarious position on the doorstep of an increasingly powerful and belligerent Chinese regime.

Taiwan's de facto embassy in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory received 25,541 document verification requests—one of the steps in the immigration process—between January and October this year, New York-based World Journal said.

The number is nearly 60 percent more than the 15,309 applications submitted over the same period in 2019, despite a four-month dip between this February and May at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Immigration or permanent residence seekers spiked between July and September immediately after Beijing passed its Hong Kong national security law, with the Taipei office seeing 3,944, 4,263 and 4,038 applications respectively.

August's peak was nearly six times higher than last year's lowest total of 729 in February, while last month 2,891 Hong Kong residents applied to relocate, statistics show.

According to Hong Kong immigration agencies, there has been an increase in applications from industry professionals since last year, as well as professors from tertiary education institutions such as the University of Hong Kong, the Chinese University of Hong Kong and Hong Kong Polytechnic University.

Other hopeful emigrants included accountants, lawyers, journalists and Hong Kong civil servants, although not those involved in political affairs, World Journal said.

Chiu Chui-cheng, deputy minister of Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council, told the newspaper that the figures showed a new wave of immigration to the democratic island.

The National Immigration Agency had approved immigration applications for 5,500 Hong Kong residents this year as of late September, Chiu revealed. A total of 5,858 Hongkongers were granted residence in Taiwan throughout the entirety of 2019.

An unnamed Taiwanese official said numbers in 2021 would give a proper sense of the scale of this latest mass migration wave, as what remains of Hong Kong's autonomy is slowly eroded and Beijing continues to quash any signs of a pro-democracy movement.

In spite of escalating military tensions between Taipei and Beijing since the election of President Tsai Ing-wen in 2016, and the Chinese leadership said to be mulling over a so-called "Taiwan separatists" blacklist, the number of Hong Kong emigrants to the island is still expected to rise steadily.

China's national security law for Hong Kong forbids subversion, secession, terrorism or collusion with foreign forces. Since its commencement on June 30, residents have relocated to neighboring countries including Taiwan, Japan, Malaysia and Thailand.

Major western nations including Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States have since announced provisions or intentions to harbor those fleeing the national security law.

Hong Kong police
File photo: A Hong Kong riot police officer. Anthony Kwan/Getty Images