A safe landing for Hong Kong's democracy refugees

When China’s final crackdown on the territory starts, democracies must step up to take in the political refugees. Taiwan has begun to lay out a welcome mat.

Reuters
A vendor in Taiwan makes statues of Hong Kong protesters at a June 13 rally marking the one-year anniversary of the start of the protests in Hong Kong.

In coming days, China’s rulers are expected to give final approval to a draconian measure that will end Hong Kong’s autonomy and allow the arrest of any pro-democracy activist in the territory. By some estimates, as many as 100,000 Hong Kongers will emigrate soon after. Millions more could follow. Where will all these freedom-seekers go?

While Britain and Japan have made moves to welcome some of the likely political refugees, perhaps the best landing spot will be Taiwan, only 400 miles away. The island nation of 24 million has proved that Chinese Confucian culture and democracy are compatible. It needs young talent. The cultural is similar.

Yet most of all, Taiwan has shown moral courage in standing up to Beijing’s bullying. The independent island is often harassed by China’s military, hackers, and propagandists for not wanting to join the mainland. Last month Taiwan’s president, Tsai Ing-wen, said that if democracies allow autocrats to advance abroad, “we are neglecting our own democratic values.”

On June 18, Taiwan took initial steps toward assisting the hundreds of Hong Kong protesters who have already fled to the island to avoid persecution at home. The government plans to open an office July 1 that will help them resettle, find a job, or study in Taiwan. The move is seen as preparation for eventually absorbing more people from Hong Kong.

China refers to pro-democracy defenders in Hong Kong as a “political virus,” which translates as a threat to the survival of the Chinese Communist Party. By comparison, Ms. Tsai was handily reelected in a popular election last January. She projects her country as a “force for good” in the world. A measure of that good is the welcome mat being put down for Hong Kong’s freedom lovers.

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