A veteran immigration lawyer has hit out at Taiwanese officials over ongoing restrictions on Hong Kong migrants that appear to run counter to its democratic government’s vocal opposition to China’s treatment of dissent in the city.
While it is theoretically possible for a Hong Konger to obtain residency in Taiwan within a year of arriving on another visa, many with connections to mainland China – which has repeatedly threatened to invade Taiwan – or who have served in city government, their affairs. drags out longer than that,” lawyer Lee Rih-chun told Radio Free Asia.
“They just don’t want them to get residency within a year – the so-called reasons they give for this are just empty words,” said Lin, who has specialized in immigration cases for the past six years.
“They shouldn’t let everybody apply, only to find out it’s not a year, but three or four, and they might not get it anyway,” he said.
Taiwan formally changed its immigration rules in 2020 to allow those born in China to apply for residency with other residents of Hong Kong and Macau, as part of a package of policies to offer an immigration route to those targeted for the peaceful expression of their political views under a draconian national security law.
But Lin said the immigration department does not appear to have received the memo.
“They have published the rules for the whole world,” he said. “Then why is the government … not obeying the law?”
Earlier this month, the immigration bureau published, then removed, new rules banning Hong Kongers in Taiwan from participating in demonstrations or election campaigns, giving media interviews, or “entering, sneaking around, or taking pictures or video on military and national defense properties.”
The Mainland Affairs Council later distanced itself from the rules, saying only that Hongkongers only need to comply with existing Taiwanese law.
A Hong Konger, nicknamed Sally, said she was worried about upsetting the authorities and being deported.
“After reading this document, I thought it might be safer for me to go back to Hong Kong than to stay in Taiwan,” she told Radio Free Asia at the time.
Meanwhile, permanent residence applicants with China ties or an official background are required to undergo “supervision” periods after arrival, violating their legal right to a timely decision, Lin said.
They also face repeated and intrusive interviews about the rationale for their migration plans, including how they will support elderly relatives they applied to bring with them as dependents, he said.
No mainlanders allowed
Taiwan’s immigration rules state that no one deemed to endanger the island’s national interests, public security, public order or citizens of mainland China will be granted permanent residence on the island who has never been ruled by the Chinese Communist Party or been a part of the Chinese Communist Party. People’s Republic of China.
But Lin said officials appear to be using repeated delaying tactics with applicants they’re not sure about, rather than giving them a definitive answer.
“There should not be delays of more than four months, regardless of the arrangements,” he said, referring to the island’s administrative procedure laws. “There is no provision in the law for probation, only to refuse an application.”
An official responding to a query from Radio Free Asia said all applications from Hongkongers with ties to China or its government, party or military must be reviewed jointly by multiple agencies and rejected if there are national security fears.
“Many Hong Kong residents have already been approved to settle here,” the official said. “If there is any doubt, a decision will be reserved, but the person concerned may remain in Taiwan while the review process continues.”
An official from Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council denied that the “observation periods” imposed on applicants were inhumane.
“This has nothing to do with disciplinary action,” the official said, citing some applications that had “violated the original intent” of the safe harbor policy.
However, even successful applicants have encountered hurdles when applying to have elderly dependent relatives join them from Hong Kong.
Submit a ‘life plan’
A Hong Konger, who gave only the nickname April, said she already has a residence permit and wants to bring her 85-year-old mother to live with her in Taiwan.
Her mother is now under a three-month mandatory “observation period” and has been asked to submit a written “life plan” to the immigration agency.
“What does she have to plan, 80-something years old, I thought to myself,” April said. “She’s already got health insurance … so she’s not going to use resources.”
Another applicant, who gave only the nickname Anna, said immigration authorities had launched an investigation into her business and the investment visa that depends on it after she applied to bring her mother to Taiwan.
“My investment visa and ID card have already been approved, so they should proceed logically,” she said. “I don’t think I need to go back over the details of my investment immigration process.”
According to publicly available documents, since 2020 the authorities have rejected a total of 12 applications for dependents of domicile holders and their subsequent complaints.
“The reason for reserving decisions and going through observation is to verify that the reason for the application is genuine,” the Mainland Affairs Council said in a response to Radio Free Asia. “Of course, the competent authority must examine the needs, purpose and necessity of the applicant’s arrival in Taiwan to rely on relatives. Attachments are irrelevant.”
“Many Hong Kong families are now separated [due to similar issues]” said Anna’s husband. “How long will we be apart and when will we get a decision?”
Translated by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Malcolm Foster.