In Taiwan, the tormented exile of Hong Kongers

On a hot and windy May evening at the small independent bookshop Nowhere, tucked away on a corner alley in southwest Taipei, a customer leafs through books about Hong Kong neatly arranged on tables while another hesitates in front of the refrigerated display case between different beers: from ” independence now, of “Be Water” (the slogan of Hong Kong protesters in 2019) or simply “Taiwan beer”? Often hosting debate nights or film screenings, the place has become a hotspot for Hong Kong immigrants to Taiwan.

“It’s more than a bookstore, it’s a place for Hong Kongers to meet and socialize. Taiwan is a culture shock that many did not expect, because it is at the same time more democratic, but also more Chinese and isolated than Hong Kong »observes Zhang Jieping, a former Hong Kong journalist who took over the bookstore a year ago.

The previous manager, a young architect who also emigrated from Hong Kong in 2020, finally left Taiwan with his wife and children for the UK in late 2021, tired of waiting for a visa that never arrived.


The intellectual vibe under these dim lights contrasts with the frenetic spectacle unfolding nearby at the intersection of the twinkling neon lights of Ximending, dubbed the “Shibuya of Taipei” in reference to Tokyo’s trendy neighborhood. Here the youth marches with lots of pompadour wigs and pastel-colored faux fur. It is also the meeting place for LGBT people, who Taiwan is the only country in Asia to grant the right to marry (since 2019).

But the Hong Kongers who find themselves in Nowhere, one of the many exile headquarters, are not in the mood to party. “Almost all Hong Kongers I know here are depressed. In addition, many have left Taiwan or are considering leaving.”says Mukyu (or Page in English), a young Hong Kong writer who published a collection of short stories about his city titled after the summer and fall of 2019 protests Maybe in the smoke. He fell in love on this eastern shore of the strait. He got married there and therefore does not think about leaving. But he knows he’s an exception, because for many of his fellow citizens, exile in Taiwan is more painful than expected.

In August 2020, just weeks after the enactment of Hong Kong’s national security law, which marked the beginning of an unprecedented repression of civil and political liberties, happened the maddening and vain epic of twelve young activists who chartered a motorboat by sea Getting to Taiwan had illustrated the hope that the ruthlessly free island embodied in Hong Kong’s psyche. Especially since Tsai Ing-wen, the president of the Democratic Progressive Party, very quickly took up the cause of the major political protest movement in the summer of 2019 in the former British colony. In contrast, Taiwan, which was de facto independent for nearly seventy-five years, was never ruled by the Chinese Communist Party, and had embarked on the road to democracy in the late 1980s, embodied all the values ​​Hong Kongers aspired to. SO.

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Andrea Hunt

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