TAINAN, Taiwan (Reuters) - Kitty Wong and Adolf Yim, both from Hong Kong, are finalizing work on a hostel in Taiwan’s southern city of Tainan that they hope will open its doors to holiday-makers next month.
This is the third hostel they are opening after arriving in 2016. The couple is part of a small but growing number of people from Hong Kong who have moved to Taiwan in recent years, many of them in search of a lower cost of living and worried about Beijing’s tightening control over the former British colony, which was given special autonomy under Chinese rule in 1997.
Many Hong Kong people have also been increasingly upset in recent years by mainland immigrants and sky-high property prices, partly pushed up by investors from China.
“As they are unable to attack Uncle Xi (President Xi Jinping), they go ahead and attack tourists,” Yim said, referring to the attitude of some Hong Kongers to mainland visitors, who are often resented for their perceived poor manners.
“I feel incapable to change the regime, but I am also unable to accept this sort of behavior.”
Concern in Hong Kong about Chinese control has escalated again this month with massive protests against legislation that would allow people in the territory to be extradited to mainland China for trial, a backlash that led Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam to shelve the bill.
“Recently, we’ve been getting a lot of inquiries,” says Kitty Wong, referring to their status as something of a point of contact for Hong Kong citizens wanting to consider a life in Taiwan.
Many Hong Kong people ask about the possibility of gaining citizenship in Taiwan as investors, she said.
The number of people granted Taiwan residency from Hong Kong and neighboring Macau, a former Portuguese enclave also given special autonomy under Chinese rule, has more than doubled to 1,267 in 2018 from a decade ago, official data shows.
The trend spiked in the two years after 2014, when big protests calling for full democracy paralyzed parts of Hong Kong for months.
In the first four months of 2019, immigration to Taiwan jumped 40% from a year earlier to about 400.
But Taiwan’s relationship with China is also complicated. The island is claimed by China as part of its territory, though the Communist-run government in Beijing has never ruled Taiwan.
China has proposed adopting the “one country, two systems” formula, under which Hong Kong returned from British rule in 1997, for Taiwan, in case of a “reunification” of the self-ruled island and China.
Writing by Ben Blanchard and Tony Munroe; Editing by Robert Birsel and Neil Fullick