Occupy Central

Taiwanese groups press for passage of asylum bill to help Hong Kong activists

PUBLISHED : Friday, 05 September, 2014, 3:55am
UPDATED : Friday, 05 September, 2014, 5:53pm

Taiwanese activists helping the Occupy Central movement have vowed to push the island's legislature to speed up deliberations on a bill that would offer political asylum to any Hongkongers persecuted because of their fight for democracy.

The bill stood a good chance of being passed by the island's legislature this year, said Yang Sen-hong, president of the Taiwan Association for China Human Rights.

Yang said civic groups in Taiwan would team up to lobby ruling Kuomintang legislators not to block the motion.

The island's Mainland Affairs Council, which oversees cross-strait and Hong Kong affairs, yesterday confirmed that Taiwan's cabinet had approved the asylum bill. It is now awaiting review and approval by the legislature.

The asylum bill was first proposed in 2009.

The main opposition party later amended it to make it easier for political refugees to seek asylum in Taiwan.

The activists also called on Hong Kong protesters not to lose heart even as support for the civil disobedience movement appeared to be waning.

Yang, a top aide of former vice-president Annette Lu Hsiu-lien, said Taiwan "should not stand idle and allow Hong Kong [to lose] the fight for democracy".

Yang, who has been advising Hong Kong's pan-democrats about civil disobedience, said various rights groups in Taiwan had teamed up to push for the bill to extend protection to political refugees.

"With the legislation done, Taiwan will be able to provide political asylum to Hongkongers persecuted for their fight for democracy," he said.

Yang and other Taiwanese activists said Hong Kong people should not see the movement as a failure. It was natural to have setbacks, they said, and pan-democrats should take the long view while cultivating a sense of civic rights among young people for the future.

"Occupy Central is merely a part of the civil disobedience movement whose scale and impact are limited by the practicality and rationalism of Hong Kong citizens, meaning the pressure on the authorities would not be strong," said Paul Lin, a social activist and a current affairs commentator with strong Hong Kong links.

Lin said it was no surprise that support for Occupy Central was waning, given that Hong Kong people were well known for their pragmatism. But he said it was a temporary setback.

Yang agreed.

"It took Taiwan a long time and effort to develop its democracy," he said, urging Hong Kong people not to lose heart.

Occupy Central co-founder Benny Tai Yiu-ting said on Tuesday that the civil disobedience campaign had failed up to this point and that public support for its plans were waning, but he later pledged to fight on.