Why more Hongkongers are moving to Taiwan

May 27, 2019 11:57
Taiwan is such a convivial place where homes are affordable, food is great, and same-sex marriage is legal. Photo: CNSA/AFP/Reuters

A growing number of Hongkongers are moving to Taiwan.

According to the National Immigration Agency of Taiwan's Ministry of the Interior, a total of 297 people from our city emigrated to Taiwan in the first quarter, up 44 percent from a year ago.

Our Security Bureau says Taiwan is the fourth most popular destination among those emigrating from Hong Kong.

More than a thousand Hongkongers moved to the island over the past three years, compared with 2,400 to Australia, 1,600 to the United States, and 1,100 to Canada, the bureau said.

The figure does not yet include Lam Wing-kei, the former owner of Causeway Bay Books who fled to the island last month amid the furor over the Hong Kong government's proposal to amend the extradition laws.

As you will recall, Lam, along with several of his colleagues at the bookshop, were reported missing in late 2015 and later resurfaced in the custody of Chinese law enforcement authorities.

It is said that their bookstore specialized in politically sensitive books, including those that contained rumors about Chinese leaders.

For Lam, Taiwan may be a good choice, considering that people there are fond of reading, and more importantly, its government is not controlled by Beijing.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor pushed for the extradition legislation after Chan Tong-kai, a 20-year-old Hong Kong man, admitted killing his pregnant girlfriend, also a Hongkonger, in Taiwan last year but managed to return to the city before the murder was discovered.

Lam is worried that Chan could be freed by October unless he is returned to Taiwan to face trial for the murder case as Hong Kong and the island have no extradition agreement at present.

There are many reasons why locals would like to stay in Taiwan for good, although I'm not sure if trying to escape justice is one of them.

Taiwan is an affordable paradise. Young couples who complain that they can't afford to acquire a flat in Hong Kong would have better chances of buying their dream home on the island, where property costs only about a quarter of the price here.

The median home price in Taipei is US$900 per square foot, which is about 25 percent of the historic high of US$3,570 psf in Hong Kong.

Home prices, however, may see more upside if the Kuomintang wins the presidential election next year. Taiwan's richest man Terry Gou and Kaohsiung mayor Han Kuo-yu, both from the Kuomintang, are frontrunners in the race.

Hongkongers may consider living somewhere in the Greater Bay Area, but if they are among those who lament the diminishing freedoms in the city amid its growing integration with the mainland, why would they ever want to live there?

Many young Hongkongers have traveled to Taiwan as tourists, and they surely enjoyed the island's dizzying array of tastes and experiences – the street foods, the hot springs, the friendly people.

Did I mention that Taiwanese vote directly for their leaders, despite their dissatisfaction with their politicians? 

And good news for members of the LGBT community and those who value equal rights: same-sex marriage has just been legalized in Taiwan, placing it miles ahead of Hong Kong, where a simple ad of a gay couple holding hands is enough to trigger so much controversy.

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EJ Insight writer