Taiwanese authorities have cited work for the Chinese arm of the Big Four audit firm KPMG and airline Cathay Pacific as reasons for rejecting immigration applications from Hong Kong residents as controls have been tightened amid national security concerns.
Immigration advisers said Taiwan’s national security agency has stepped up scrutiny of Hong Kong residents’ applications for stay in the country after sparking a spate of applications sparked by the Chinese territory’s 2019 crackdown on pro-democracy protests.
China, which claims Taiwan as its territory, has threatened to take it by force if Taipei resists unification indefinitely, and has stepped up military activity around the island in recent years.
Appeal decisions for Taiwan residency applications last year revealed several cases in which Hong Kong residents were rejected based on current or former employers, including financial institutions with mainland Chinese investors like tech giant Alibaba.
“Many Hong Kongers hoped to move to Taiwan after 2019 for national security reasons [controls] in Hong Kong, but now Taiwan is refusing them for reasons of national security,” said Shirley Cheung of consulting firm Formosa Immigration, which has offices in Hong Kong and Taipei.
A Hong Kong national, a former Hong Kong employee of KPMG, who applied for a residency permit in Taiwan as a qualified migrant was turned down in July over national security concerns.
Taiwanese officials described KPMG China as an entity that “mainly served mainland Chinese” and was perceived as a “strong mainland Chinese” component. Officials also cited the applicant’s current role as legal advisor to Hong Kong-based fintech company WeLab, which counts Alibaba among its investors, as a reason for the refusal.
Last month, Taiwanese officials also cited national security considerations when they upheld the rejection of an investment immigrant permanent residence application by an individual who worked for Cathay Pacific’s catering services division in the 1990s.
Officials wrote in appeal decisions published online by the government that Cathay Pacific’s major shareholders included state-owned Air China. The applicant’s personal investments in Taiwan were also “problematic,” they added.
Former and current employees at Chinese state banks, investment group CLSA and Hong Kong-listed telecoms company PCCW – controlled by local billionaire Richard Li – were also turned down over similar issues.
WeLab said the company was “founded in Hong Kong and headquartered with multiple fintech companies across Asia.” KPMG China, Cathay Pacific, CLSA and PCCW did not immediately respond to comment.
Taiwan has tightened scrutiny of Hong Kong investments in recent years after Chinese-controlled companies and Chinese individual investors used Hong Kong companies or personal identities to circumvent bans and controls on Chinese investments.
Taiwan is also subjecting Hong Kong residents’ residency applications to security screening. Applicants are often rejected if they were born in mainland China or have worked for government institutions, the Communist Party, the military or other entities with mainland ties.
Taiwan’s Chinese cabinet-level policy body, the Mainland Affairs Council, said some immigration officials had handled some cases with “excessive” national security concerns, but that was no longer the case.
“While such links increase the level of scrutiny to ensure there is no threat to our national security, these links themselves will never be the reason your application is denied,” said Chiu Chui-cheng, deputy MAC minister. “We hope that some isolated failed cases will not discredit our efforts to help Hong Kongers who want to come and live in Taiwan.”
The Taiwanese government said the main reason for rejecting Hong Kongers’ residency applications was fraudulent investment immigration applications submitted with the help of advisers.
The number of Hong Kongers allowed to stay or settle permanently in Taiwan rose nearly 70 percent to 12,389 in 2020. The number of permits rose to another historic high of 12,858 in 2021.
https://www.ft.com/content/58ef9713-8b1b-49cd-8491-2f0dd626f1df Taiwan blocks Hong Kong migrants via KPMG China and Cathay Pacific connections