HK protesters seeking asylum in Taiwan

Protesters using a cart as a battering ram on the city’s parliament on July 1, 2019. (AFP pic)

HONG KONG: Dozens of Hong Kong protesters involved in the ransacking of the city’s Legislative Council this month have arrived in Taiwan to seek asylum, the Apple Daily newspaper reported.

About 30 protesters have already landed in Taiwan, while as many as 30 others – and possibly more – are planning to try soon, the Hong Kong newspaper said, citing unidentified people who assisted them.

The fleeing activists were part of the group that smashed into the legislature on July 1, the paper said.

The people who assisted the protesters told the paper they had been in contact with Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council, which handles the island’s relations with Beijing, to seek help.

The council hasn’t received any formal asylum applications from Taiwan’s National Immigration Agency, its deputy minister Chiu Chui-cheng said in a text message.

If Taiwan receives any applications, authorities will handle them appropriately based on existing regulations and the principle of protecting human rights, Chiu added.

A flight to Taiwan by Hong Kong asylum seekers would be fraught with geopolitical risk.

It threatens to raise tensions between the administration of Taiwanese President Tsai Ingwen, a China critic who’s up for re-election in January, and Chinese President Xi Jinping, who has already faced embarrassment over the global attention paid to Hong Kong’s anti-government protests.

Hong Kong’s historic demonstrations over legislation that would allow extraditions to the mainland for the first time have resonated widely in democratically run Taiwan, which China considers a wayward province.

Seeking refuge

The Taiwan Association for Human Rights, a top local non-governmental organisation, wouldn’t comment on the case. “We cannot divulge any information regarding any individual case,” said Secretary-General, Chiu Eling.

“If there are individuals who approach us for help, we’ll interview these people and help them get in touch with government officials if that is what they wish.”

Protesters used a metal cart as a battering ram to break their way into the legislative building on the anniversary of Hong Kong’s return from British rule, spray-painting slogans on its chamber’s walls and draping a Union Jack-emblazoned colonial flag across the body president’s desk.

At the time, Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam condemned the “extreme use of violence and vandalism” and supported the police’s decision to leave it undefended in the face of a small group of protesters.

Emily Leung, a spokeswoman for Lam, referred queries on the report to the Hong Kong police, who didn’t immediately respond to a call and an email Friday for comment.