Hong Kongers in Taiwan firmly support ruling party

HONG KONG — As Taiwan’s presidential election approaches, many immigrants from Hong Kong, witnesses to the alarming erosion of civil liberties at home, are supporting the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

Beijing’s crackdown on dissent in the financial hub has cemented their preference for a party committed to preserving Taiwan’s de facto independence and democratic values ahead of the Jan. 13 vote.

While Taiwanese immigration policies have been less welcoming than some from Hong Kong anticipated, most remain steadfast in their support for the DPP, largely due to the party’s firm stance on autonomy from Beijing, according to interviews with 10 Hong Kongers, over half of whom moved to Taiwan after the 2019 anti-government protests.

Hong Tsun-ming, a protester who feared arrest and moved to Taiwan in 2019, told The Associated Press he looks forward to having a taste of deciding its fate. The election is a cherished voting opportunity he never had in Hong Kong, where the chief executive is picked by a predominantly pro-Beijing committee. He plans to support the DPP.

Free speech haven

Following Beijing’s imposition of a national security law on Hong Kong in 2020, Taiwan has stood out as a haven for free speech and liberties in the Chinese-speaking world. Over the last three years, tens of thousands of Hong Kongers have migrated to the self-ruled island, many dismayed by the rapid erosion of freedoms that had been promised to remain intact for 50 years in the former British colony after returning to Chinese rule in 1997.

As these immigrants establish new lives in Taiwan, some confront a reality tinged with frustration. Taiwan's concerns over security risks posed by China, which views the island as a renegade province, have complicated application procedures. That has resulted in residency denials for some, particularly those who worked in government-funded entities or companies with strong ties to Chinese businesses. The opacity and protracted process of securing permanent residency have also drawn criticism.

From January 2020 to November 2023, over 37,100 Hong Kongers secured temporary residency, Taiwan's National Immigration Agency reported. Just 5,700 others obtained permanent residency.

Taiwan, with a population of 23 million, has never been governed by the People’s Republic of China. But the mainland’s ruling Communist Party insists on unification with Taiwan, by force if necessary. China has warned that “‘Taiwan independence’ means war.” Still, many Taiwan residents are undisturbed by that threat. / AP

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