Strict immigration rules in Taiwan pose challenges for Hong Kongers looking for residency

The national security law introduced in Hong Kong in 2020 had triggered an influx of Hong Kongers seeking refuge in Taiwan; however, the tightening of immigration rules by Taiwan’s government, amidst cross-strait tensions, has created challenges and uncertainties for those seeking permanent residency.

Amidst rising cross-strait tensions and ahead of Taiwan’s presidential election on January 13, Hong Kong citizens are encountering challenges in securing permanent residency in Taiwan, a destination once touted as a haven after the introduction of Hong Kong’s national security law in 2020.

President Tsai Ing-wen’s administration, initially welcoming Hong Kongers, has grown cautious of potential foreign infiltration, leading to increased background checks and a lack of clarity on application criteria and timelines.

While Taiwan witnessed an influx of 11,000 Hong Kongers in 2021 seeking refuge after the national security law’s enforcement, recent reports suggest a slowdown in the relaxation of immigration rules for Hong Kongers. Tensions between Taiwan and China have escalated since Tsai’s pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party took power in 2016, intensifying concerns over Chinese interference.

The Taiwan-Hong Kong Services and Exchanges Office, established to facilitate relocations, has seen a decline in approvals, raising frustration among applicants. Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council denies hidden quotas but acknowledges reviews for applicants associated with mainland China due to security concerns. The strained ties between Hong Kong and Taiwan, exemplified by Hong Kong’s suspension of its representative office in Taiwan in 2021, contribute to the challenges faced by those seeking residency.

In 2022, complaints arose regarding prolonged residency applications, leading to doubts among the people. The situation has prompted some Hong Kongers to consider alternative destinations, such as the United Kingdom, due to its clearer immigration criteria. The uncertainty in Taiwan’s immigration policy has left applicants uncertain, waiting for a possible policy change after the upcoming presidential election.

Despite the hurdles, some Hong Kongers who relocated to Taiwan in 2021 cite reasons such as eroding freedom of speech in Hong Kong. However, the evolving immigration landscape in Taiwan, coupled with a lack of clarity on timelines and criteria, highlights the challenges faced by those seeking permanent residency.

As the presidential election approaches, the Hong Kong community in Taiwan observes the political developments with keen interest, hoping for potential policy changes that could impact their residency prospects. This situation underscores the broader complexities arising from geopolitical tensions in the region, as individuals navigate political shifts and evolving immigration policies.