A Hong Kong bookseller who fled to Taiwan says he has called on the US to allow activists from the city to relocate to the United States.
Lam Wing-kee said he made the proposal in a meeting in Taipei with US officials led by Keith Krach, undersecretary of state for economic growth, energy and the environment, who expressed concern about human rights and other issues related to Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Tibet.
“I told them that a number of Hongkongers who had fled to Taiwan were having difficulty finding jobs in Taiwan and hoped to go to the US instead,” Lam said on Tuesday.
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Lam met Krach on Friday, along with Robert Destro, assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labour, Randall Schriver, former assistant secretary of defence for Indo-Pacific security affairs, and Kelley Currie, ambassador-at-large for global women’s issues.
Krach is the most senior State Department official to have visited Taiwan. His three-day trip last week infuriated Beijing, which has warned Washington against having official exchanges with the self-ruled island that it considers to be part of its territory.
Lam said some Hong Kong activists who had fled to Taiwan saw the US as a better option because they were struggling to meet tough requirements for residency on the island.
“A number of them are unable to meet the requirement that one must get a job with a monthly pay of more than NT$47,000 [US$1,620] in order to get residency status in Taiwan,” the bookseller said.
“So I proposed that the US consider [allowing] transfer of these people to the United States,” Lam said, adding that the US officials had expressed a desire to help during the meeting.
At least 200 activists involved in the anti-government protests in Hong Kong are believed to have fled to Taiwan, some illegally, according to local media reports.
“I didn’t expect them to give me an answer right away – I believe they will take the issue back to the US for further deliberation,” Lam said.
The 64-year-old bookseller fled Hong Kong himself in April last year, fearing he would be extradited to mainland China under a now-withdrawn extradition bill that triggered months of unrest in the city.
Lam reopened his bookstore in Taipei in April this year.
In Hong Kong, he was one of five shareholders and staff at Causeway Bay Books, which sold titles about China’s leaders that had been banned on the mainland. All five went missing between October and December 2015 and it emerged they had been detained on the mainland. Lam later said he had been detained and blindfolded by police after crossing the border into Shenzhen from Hong Kong in October 2015.
Lam noted that Washington had been sympathetic towards the extradition bill protesters in Hong Kong and that it had opposed the national security law imposed on the city by Beijing in June.
The controversial legislation criminalises a broad range of acts as sedition, secession, foreign collusion and terrorism, and has sparked concern over erosion of the city’s autonomy and rule of law.
Washington responded with measures including ending Hong Kong’s preferential trade treatment and imposing travel and other bans on mainland Chinese and Hong Kong officials including Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor.
On Sunday, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen said her government would continue to help Hongkongers seeking to live and work in Taiwan.
“If there are any obstacles in the existing statutes and systems, we will review them one by one in the hope we can help our Hong Kong friends as much as possible – especially in the area of humanitarianism,” she said, adding that a special office had been set up to assist Hongkongers wanting to relocate to the island.
The office reportedly received 2,000 requests for help in the first week it opened in July.
More from South China Morning Post:
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This article Hong Kong bookseller says he asked visiting US officials to help activists in Taiwan first appeared on South China Morning Post