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In Taiwan, the tormented exile of Hong Kongers


On a hot and windy May evening, in the small independent bookstore Nowhere, tucked away on the corner of an alley in southwestern Taipei, a customer leafs through books on Hong Kong neatly arranged on tables, while a another hesitates in front of the refrigerated showcase between different beers: from “Independence now”, of the “Be Water” (the slogan of the 2019 Hong Kong protesters) or simply “Taiwan Beer”? The place, frequently animated by debate evenings or film screenings, has become a hotspot for Hong Kong immigrants to Taiwan.

“More than a bookstore, it’s a place where Hong Kongers can meet and talk. Taiwan is a culture shock that many did not expect, because it is at the same time more democratic, but also more Chinese and more insular 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 for the United Kingdom at the end of 2021, with his wife and children, tired of waiting for a visa that never arrived.


The intellectual atmosphere under this subdued light contrasts with the hectic spectacle that takes place nearby, at the crossroads of the twinkling neon lights of Ximending, nicknamed “the Shibuya of Taipei”, in reference to the trendy district of Tokyo. This is where the youth marches with a lot of Pompadour wigs and pastel fake furs. It is also the meeting place for LGBT people, to whom Taiwan is the only country in Asia to grant marriage (since 2019).

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

In August 2020, a few weeks after the entry into force, in Hong Kong, of the national security law, which marked the beginning of an unprecedented repression of civil and political freedoms, the mad and vain epic of twelve young activists who had chartered a motor boat to reach Taiwan by sea had illustrated the hope that the ferociously free island represented in the Hong Kong psyche. Especially since Tsai Ing-wen, the president of the DPP, the Democratic Progressive Party, had very quickly taken up the cause of the great political protest movement of summer 2019 in the former British colony. By contrast, Taiwan, de facto independent for almost seventy-five years, never having been ruled by the Chinese Communist Party and having taken the path of democracy in the late 1980s, embodied all the values ​​to which Hong Kongers aspired. SO.

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