TAIPEI - Taiwan will provide "necessary help" for people from Hong Kong who come to the island, the government said on Thursday after a meeting with a Hong Kong student delegation, amid concerns they may not get proper legal protection in case they flee there.
Anti-government protests in the Chinese-controlled city have attracted broad concern in democratic Taiwan, which China claims as its own territory. Taiwan's government has said it strongly supports people's aspirations for freedom and democracy.
Taiwan currently has no law on refugees which could be applied to Hong Kong protesters who may seek asylum on the island. Its laws do promise though to help Hong Kong citizens whose safety and liberty are threatened for political reasons.
Chiu Chui-cheng, deputy head of Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council, said he had met on Thursday a Hong Kong student delegation, and explained to them Taiwan's policies.
"We know that these students are anxious about many people who may be staying in Taiwan and looking for help and hope that they can get proper or positive assistance," Chiu told reporters.
"We can understand this, and will have necessary communication with them," he added.
Taiwan will in accordance with existing laws and on humanitarian principles provide "necessary help for individual cases", Chiu said, without specifying which students he had met.
Over the weekend a Hong Kong student leader, Keith Fong, president of the Hong Kong Baptist University Students' Union, said Taiwan's ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) only verbally supported the protests and had not enacted specific laws to support the protesters.
People would inevitably suspect that the DPP "only wants to exchange Hongkongers' sacrifices for Taiwanese people's votes", he added, referring to Taiwan's Jan. 11 presidential and parliamentary elections.
But writing on his Facebook page on Tuesday, Fong said it was not his intention to criticise the DPP, that he did not take the support of Taiwan's people for granted and that he had always been grateful for Taiwan's interest in the protests.
"The people of Hong Kong and Taiwan have fought in separate lands to escape the clutches of the Communist Party," he wrote.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore) ((firstname.lastname@example.org;))