Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said on Friday that her government would consider providing political asylum to fleeing Hong Kong activists who were involved in protesting a controversial China extradition bill earlier this month.
Tsai, who is in the Caribbean nation of St. Lucia on a state visit, told reporters that if Hong Kong protesters apply for political asylum, her government will handle the matter in a proper manner.
“We will handle the matter on a humanitarian basis,” she said.
Tsai made the remarks in the wake of Hong Kong media reports that say anywhere from 10 to 30 Hong Kong protesters, among those who stormed the Legislative Council on July 1, have already landed on the island and are planning to ask the Taiwanese government for political asylum.
Mainland Affairs Council Deputy Minister Chiu Chui-cheng told Kyodo News that, so far, no applications from Hong Kong protesters have been received.
But he said if applications do come in, they will handle each case in accordance with the wishes of the individual, based on humanitarian grounds.
“If a Hong Kong citizen is in immediate danger of persecution due to political reasons, the government can provide necessary assistance,” Chiu said.
China was quick to respond to Taiwan’s plan to offer humanitarian protection.
A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman urged “some people on the island to stop false compassion,” saying Taiwan itself is like a “clay idol crossing a river, and should be looking out for its own survival.”
Regarding reports that some protesters may have also fled to the United States, China said it strongly opposes any foreign government, organization, or individual interfering in China’s domestic affairs.
Taiwan does not have a legal framework to grant political asylum, and some fear that once such legislation is enacted, it would be flooded with Chinese democracy activists seeking asylum.
Lam Wing-kei, a former Causeway Bay Books manager, fled to Taiwan from Hong Kong in April this year, fearing that he might be sent to China. He was reportedly listed as a wanted person by Beijing after failing to return to China following his conditional release in June 2016 from a month-long detention for selling books banned by Chinese authorities.
Lam was granted a one-month visa after arriving in Taiwan. Authorities have extended his visa until July 14, to give him time to find employment and obtain residency through a work permit.
Chiu said on Friday that Lam’s visa had been extended until Oct. 25.