Taiwan has become an increasingly popular immigration destination for a growing wave of Hong Kong citizens leaving the crowded and pricey autonomous Chinese city.
Earlier this month, Hong Kong's government revealed that 3,900 people emigrated in the first half of this year, an 8 percent increase on the same period in 2012. It said the most common destinations for the emigrants are Australia, Canada and the United States.
But Taiwan is catching up. A new report released by the self-ruled island's government shows a significant jump in residency applications from Hong Kongers and citizens of the smaller autonomous Chinese city of Macau.
Taiwan's National Immigration Agency said it received 3,195 residency applications from Hong Kong and Macau in 2012, a 30 percent increase from the year before. It said the number of successful applicants for permanent residency last year rose by a similar margin to 711.
The Taiwan immigration report said the pace of residency applications from Hong Kong and Macau also has accelerated in recent months. It said 632 applications were received in September, nearly six times more than in May.
Taiwan media said September's surge partly was seasonal, because it coincided with overseas students applying to attend the start of the new semester at local universities. But they said the data also reflect a broader trend.
Hong Kong's drawbacks
A Taiwan street. (Iris Tong/VOA)
Ms. Koo’s bookstore and café in Tainan City, Taiwan. (Iris Tong/VOA)
Ms. Koo in her bookstore and café in Tainan City, Taiwan. (Iris Tong/VOA)
Ms. Koo’s bookstore and café is decorated with Hong Kong news reports published before its handover to China in 1997, Tainan City, Taiwan. (Iris Tong/VOA)
Ms. Koo’s bookstore and café displays nostalgic posters of Hong Kong’s pre-handover days, Tainan City, Taiwan. (Iris Tong/VOA)
A collectible toy gun from Hong Kong is displayed in Ms. Koo's bookstore and cafe in Tainan City, Taiwan. (Iris Tong/VOA)
Tim Wong at his FabCafe office in Taipei, Taiwan. (Iris Tong/VOA)
Design samples on display in Tim Wong’s office in Taipei, Taiwan. (Iris Tong/VOA)
Tim Wong’s café also functions as a design studio in Taipei, Taiwan. (Iris Tong/VOA)
A sign showing directions to a workshop at Tim Wong café in Taipei, Taiwan. (Iris Tong/VOA)
Emigration from Hong Kong has been rising since 2011, with citizens citing a variety of reasons for leaving.
They include the high cost of living, pollution and an influx of mainland China visitors and residents who compete with locals for the city's resources.
Other emigrants blame the Hong Kong government, saying it has had too many scandals and has been too slow to introduce full democracy to the city.
Hong Kongers who have made the move to Taiwan say the island has several key advantages over their hometown.
Speaking in Taipei, U.S.-educated businessman Tim Wong said Taiwan's democratic political system is more appealing.
"Taiwan is the only place where the Chinese community enjoys its own system of democracy," said Wong. "That democracy is not dominated by any ideology. I came to Taiwan to live my life in a place of mutual benefit and mutual contribution."
Wong relocated to Taipei last year to start a 3-D printing and design company with a partner from Japan. He said Taiwan is supportive of small business.
Another Hong Konger, Ms. Koo, emigrated to Taiwan in March and opened a café and bookstore in the southern city of Tainan. She says that she chose Taiwan because life is more affordable than in Hong Kong, while the language and culture are similar in both places.
In a report published Monday, Taiwan newspaper United Daily News
quoted a local immigration agent as saying some Hong Kongers living on the island also have been applying to become permanent residents.
The agent said those people include Hong Kongers who have worked in Taiwan for at least a year and prefer the lifestyle, as well as those who marry Taiwan citizens.
Internet users also created a Facebook page
last month to promote Taiwan as a friendly place for Hong Kong citizens seeking a better life.
The self-titled "Evacuation to Taiwan" page features articles about Taiwan's politics, property market and cuisine. It also highlights commentaries that are critical of the Hong Kong government.
The page has attracted more than 4,600 likes since it was set up on October 14.
This report was produced in collaboration with VOA's Cantonese Service. Lipin reported from Washington and Tong contributed from Taipei.
This report was amended on Dec 3, 2013 to clarify that the 711 successful applicants in 2012 had received permanent residency in Taiwan.