A furious Beijing denounced Taiwan's Thursday promise to settle displaced Hong Kong residents who flee the city for political reasons, saying that the ruling Democratic Progressive Party was seeking to "loot a burning house" and sow discord, according to Channel News Asia.
The move comes as Hong Kong protesters have taken to the streets in opposition to new security legislation which would allow Chinese intelligence services to operate on Hong Kong soil, increasing Beijing's grip on the semi-autonomous city and targeting secession, subversion, terrorism and foreign interference - terms used by China to describe last year's protests across the city sparked by a now-shelved extradition treaty.
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen this week became the first world leader to step up and pledge specific help to Hong Kong residents who wish to leave over the new legislation.
It’s really amazing that Taiwan—which faces a, you know, existential threat from China—can muster a more strongly worded tweet than any statement the Europeans are putting out. https://t.co/kuBNt7SoYE— Michael Mazza (@mike_mazza) May 28, 2020
According to Taiwan's top China-policy maker at the Mainland Affairs Council, Chen Ming-tong, the government will establish a "humanitarian relief" organization that will include employment and settlement assistance in a joint effort with activist groups - adding that counseling services would also be provided for Hong Kongers - some of whom have participated in often-violent pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.
"Many Hong Kongers want to come to Taiwan. Our goal is to give them settlement and care," said Chen, urging the public not to call people "refugees" as it could be "emotionally harmful" to people from the city.
"Bringing black, violent forces into Taiwan will bring disaster to Taiwan's people," warned China's Taiwan Affairs Office.
Hong Kong's demonstrators have won widespread sympathy in democratic Taiwan, which China considers as its territory to be taken by force, if necessary. Taiwan has shown no interest in being ruled by autocratic China.
Help for Hong Kong has won rare bipartisan support in politically polarised Taiwan and three opposition parties have introduced bills to make it easier for Hong Kongers to live in Taiwan if they have to leave the city due to political reasons.
Taiwan has no law on refugees that could be applied to protesters seeking asylum, but its laws promise to help Hong Kongers whose safety and liberty are threatened for political reasons. -Channel News Asia
Some Taiwan lawmakers say Tsai's government isn't moving fast enough with relief efforts.
"Please come up with details of the humanitarian relief at the soonest. Don't wait until people shed blood like water," said opposition lawmaker from the Kuomintang party.
CNA notes that Taiwan has granted residency to 2,383 Hong Kong citizens in the first four months of 2020, an increase of 150% vs. one year ago. Meanwhile, university applications to Taiwan from Hong Kong have spiked 62% in 2020 vs. last year - while Taiwan's education ministry announced this week that it would raise the quota for students from Hong Kong.