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Taiwan Reports Boom in Enrollment of Students From Hong Kong

2021-01-11 -- Recent statistics from colleges and universities on the democratic island of Taiwan show a sharp rise in the number of students from Hong Kong, RFA has learned.

Since city-wide mass arrests targeting last year's pro-democracy and anti-extradition movement, and a broader crackdown on dissent under a draconian national security law imposed by the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) on July 1, the number of Hong Kong students enrolling in higher education on the island has risen by around 28 percent, according to an international admissions body.

Meanwhile, some colleges are reporting that they have nearly double the number of students from Hong Kong compared with this time last year.

Taiwan has been a vocal supporter of pro-democracy protesters and opposition politicians, and last year rolled out an immigration pathway for Hongkongers fleeing arrest in connection with their political activities.

While the country has no formal law allowing refugees to seek political asylum there, an easing of restrictions resulted in applications from more than 7,400 residents of the city for residency in Taiwan, a prerequisite to both work and study, Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) reported in December 2020.

According to Taiwan's University Entrance Committee for Overseas Chinese Students, applications from students are booming.

"The number of [Hong Kong] applicants during 2020 was at the highest point in the past five years," a committee official surnamed Chou told journalists.

The island's high-ranking National Chengchi University said it had 131 students from Hong Kong enrolled at the beginning of this year, compared with 63 at the same point in 2020.

Many graduates stay in Taiwan

Liu Hsiang-lin, director of the international division of National Taiwan Normal University said the school currently has 61 Hongkongers enrolled, compared with more than 30 in 2018.

Many who do graduate in Taiwan are staying, too.

"I heard that many students hope to stay and work in Taiwan after they get their degree," Liu told RFA. "We welcome students from Hong Kong, Macau, overseas Chinese, and other international students."

"I think they should be allowed stay in Taiwan and contribute what they have learned to Taiwan's [economy and development]," he said.

An immigration consultant surnamed Tan said he is dealing with ever-increasing numbers of clients from Hong Kong.

"The numbers seeking consultation are higher than before; they tend to spike higher immediately after some kind of political incident," Tan said.

"For example, there was an immediate increase following the mass arrests of pro-democracy politicians last week," he said. "Our appointments for consultation are almost full, but many are still calling to make an appointment."

Taiwan's Ministry of Education announced last month that it plans to amend the rules to enable schools to recruit high-schoolers from Hong Kong, too.

City-wide crackdown

On Jan. 6, Hong Kong's newly minted national security police arrested more than 50 opposition politicians and activists in a city-wide crackdown on dissent under a draconian law imposed by the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

Around 1,000 national security police officers were dispatched to arrest 53 people who took part in or helped to organize a primary election in July aimed at selecting pro-democracy candidates for Legislative Council (LegCo) elections that were then postponed by the authorities.

Former Hong Kong University law professor Benny Tai and founder of the 2014 Occupy Central pro-democracy movement and former Democratic Party chairman Wu Chi-wai were among those arrested.

Several former opposition lawmakers were also among Wednesday's arrestees, including Eddie Chu, Kwok Ka-ki, Helena Wong, Lam Cheuk-ting, Au Nok-hin, and Alvin Yeung, along with Yuen Long District Councillor and primary candidate Ng Kin-wai and District Councillor Tiffany Yuen.

Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam moved soon after the democratic primary to postpone LegCo elections scheduled for early September, citing concerns over the coronavirus pandemic.

The entire pro-democracy camp then resigned from LegCo en masse in November 2020, in protest at the ouster of four opposition lawmakers following a decree from the National People's Congress (NPC) standing committee in Beijing.

Reported by Lau Siu Fung for RFA's Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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