My heart goes out to the people of Hualien, a popular tourist destination on the eastern coast of Taiwan, which was hit by another earthquake just a week before the Lunar New Year holiday.
Hualien, a small, peaceful city with a population of only a little more than 100,000, was struck by a second, 5.7 magnitude earthquake on Wednesday, less than 24 hours after a 6.4 magnitude tremor hit the area.
At least seven people were killed, hundreds injured and scores missing. Rescuers are still busy looking for survivors trapped in heavily damaged buildings.
I don’t think I could easily forget the television news footage showing the 12-storey Yun Men Tsui Ti building, which is now leaning dangerously at a steep angle like the Leaning Tower of Pisa after the first three floors collapsed in the wake of the quake.
I have come to love Taiwan and its people. Many Hongkongers have thought of living there, and, in fact, many have migrated to the island and have come to love their new home. After all, we share the same values such as our abiding faith in democracy.
Taiwan is a modern and prosperous place – perhaps not as wealthy as mainland China, but somehow more convivial and definitely freer.
There, a fresh university graduate only earns about a third of the income of his Hong Kong peer. But then the costs of food and other necessities are lower, and home prices are quite affordable.
It is not a bad place for Hong Kong retirees looking for a more relaxing environment and an economical lifestyle without having to sacrifice the quality of life.
Over the past year, I have been to Taiwan a number of times to visit a long-time acquaintance who migrated to Taipei last year in search a more simple and quiet life.
He told me that what he treasures most in his new home is the quality of human interactions. Most Taiwanese are sincere and friendly people who harbor warm-hearted feelings toward Hongkongers.
Another great thing about Taiwan is that it has arguably a better medical care system than Hong Kong. Well, that’s probably just a superficial impression because they have shorter queues in public hospitals and the doctors there seem more patient and accommodating.
Also, the cost of emigrating to Taiwan is not so prohibitive: you only need to invest about HK$1.5 million for a one-year stay.
The catch is that the island, especially Hualien, is so vulnerable to natural disasters such as earthquakes and typhoons.
I will visit Taiwan again tomorrow, and I will bring with me the sympathies and prayers of Hong Kong.
Let’s all pray that the people of Hualien will quickly recover from the tragedy and, despite their sorrows, be able to take a break for a warm and peaceful new year.
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