17 February 2020
Taiwan (left) has emerged as a popular choice for Hong Kong emigrants, but people are discovering that life on the island is not always easy. Photo: HKEJ
Taiwan (left) has emerged as a popular choice for Hong Kong emigrants, but people are discovering that life on the island is not always easy. Photo: HKEJ

HK emigrants find life in Taiwan a mixed blessing

Fed up with the sky-high rents and frenetic lifestyle, a growing number of Hongkongers have been seeking to move elsewhere in the region.

As people search for places where they could migrate and yet not be too far away from home, Taiwan has emerged as an attractive option. The island is seen offering a better quality of life, while being just a short plane ride away.

Among those who have taken the leap are Eric and Janet, a young couple who migrated to Taichung three weeks ago.

Eric, 35, who graduated from the Chinese University of Hong Kong, outlined two reasons why he and his wife decided to move out of Hong Kong and start their life all over again in Taichung.

“One is the housing price. Also, after the Umbrella Movement, it seems the government won’t listen to you no matter what you do,” he told Apple Daily.

The housing situation in Hong Kong is absolutely hopeless, Eric said.

“We sold our flat in 2010, and we moved to smaller places and paid higher rents. Meanwhile, our incomes were also falling,” Janet added.

Currently, they rent a 700-square-foot furnished flat in Taichung for the equivalent of around HK$5,000.

Eric and his wife are planning to open a Hong Kong-style cha chaan teng, or tea restaurant, there.

“We’ve visited two sites. Both can be leased at much cheaper rental than those in Hong Kong,” Eric said.

One of the sites is on a street with less foot traffic, while a smaller one is at a location which already has many restaurants. The monthly rents are HK$3,300 and HK$5,000 respectively. Despite the higher rent, Janet prefers the second location.

Their expectation in Taiwan is simple. “We want to have more leisure time; we don’t need to work overtime that much.”

“We want to live in a bigger place; our aim is to just earn enough money to make our ends meet.”

However, traveling in Taiwan and having fun is one thing, earning a living there as a foreigner is definitely another.

Fok Chi-ming, the host of Facebook page “Happiness in Taiwan” migrated to Taichung with his family eight years ago. His friends had been teasing him for this decision before, but now they are envying his life there.

But for those who are planning to do the same, Fok’s advice is to “think twice”.

“If you only have enough money to reach the threshold of immigration, the first thing you have to think about is how to earn a living. Don’t come here and start a café by impulse, doing business in Taiwan is not easy,” he said.

Fok is now a famous football commentator in Taiwan. He has been dreaming about setting up an indoor football court in Taichung. Last year, his dream finally came true, but it quickly turned into a nightmare.

He first rented a site which used to be a bowling club. Then he sent applications to the relevant government department, following the official procedures and doing all the paper work.

However, the government officials made his life very difficult. His indoor-football business was forced to shut down after operating for four months due to “violation of the zoning control system”.

As of now, Fok does not understand why the site could be used to operate a bowling club but not an indoor football court, he told Apple Daily. He said he has lost around HK$750,000 in the battle with authorities.

While things may not always work out, he thinks he is having a happy life in Taiwan.

“Hong Kong is now a distant place to me; it is not anymore the place where I grew up. When I was studying in Taiwan back in 80s, everything from Hong Kong was good, but now you cannot name a thing good about it,” Fok said.

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