Taiwan president Tsai Ing-wen said Beijing had failed Hong Kong with the imposition on Tuesday of a sweeping national security law on the city banning a slew of offenses targeting anyone who challenges the ruling Communist Party's political and ideological supremacy.
"I feel extremely disappointed [over the law's passage], which means China did not keep its promise to Hong Kong," Tsai told journalists as the law was added to Hong Kong's statute book, bypassing the city's Legislative Council (LegCo).
Tsai said the law had put an end to Beijing's "one country, two systems" model, under which it saw the return of Hong Kong and Macau to Chinese rule in 1997 and 1999 respectively.
Chinese president Xi Jinping has called on Taiwan, which has never been ruled by the Chinese Communist Party, nor formed part of the People's Republic, to "unify" with China under the same plan as Hong Kong and Macau.
But Tsai said the draconian new law that took effect at 11.00 p.m. on June 30, one hour before the anniversary of the handover on July 1, proved that the concept was "not feasible" for Taiwan.
Tsai, whose government has set up a special agency tasked with easing the path of Hongkongers fleeing to the democratic island, said she hoped the people of Hong Kong would continue to fight to maintain their freedoms, democracy, and human rights after the law is implemented.
But she also reiterated Taiwan's pledge of help to Hongkongers in the form of the Taiwan-Hong Kong Services and Exchanges Office, which will begin operations Wednesday to provide one-stop services to Hong Kongers who wish to study, do business, make investments, or seek asylum on the island.
Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council (MAC), an executive agency tasked with managing relations with China, also criticized the new law, saying it would seriously affect the city's freedoms and human rights protections.
"Since the Chinese Communist Party announced the national security law for Hong Kong, people from all walks of life in the city have been worrying about what crimes they could be accused of in future," MAC spokesman Chiu Chui-cheng said.
"What's more, the Chinese Communist Party has set up a national security agency in Hong Kong ... bringing more fear and suppression to the people of Hong Kong," he said.
Lin Feifan, deputy secretary general of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), said: "In response to the crisis in Hong Kong, we must make the best preparations for the worst-case scenario and give [its people] our strongest support."
In the capital, Taipei, city authorities have set up a fast-track service helping Hongkongers find study and employment opportunities in the city.
Deputy mayor Tsai Ping-kun said the city had been extending a helping hand to people fleeing arrest in Hong Kong since September 2019.
"We have been doing this all along since last September ... but now we are further integrating our [resources and services] with a single point of contact, a dedicated helpline and area," Tsai said.
"We don't have a new office, but there is integration of existing resources."
Former Hong Kong bookseller Lam Wing-kei, who fled to Taiwan fearing arrest by Chinese state security police, said he is teaming up with other exiled activists to provide help and information to Hongkongers wanting to flee their city.
"[They] are setting up a platform to offer assistance and information to Hongkongers," Lam said. "Sometimes they might go to the wrong place, or even get targeted by fraudsters. That does happen."
"We want to put them in touch with reliable friends or organizations that are going to help them," he said.
Reported by Hwang Chun-mei for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Chung Kuang-cheng for the Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.