Taiwan is a second home for many Hongkongers. As Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement enters its second year, some activists residing in Taiwan are shifting toward a new direction.

Enter Hong Kong Outlanders in Taiwan, a civic group established by Hongkongers who hope to sustain social awareness of the pro-democracy protests. The group has organized exhibits and workshops, as well as working with Taiwan’s government to provide humanitarian assistance for asylum-seeking Hongkongers.

Last month, the Outlanders held its first Taipei exhibition, Surmount, featuring protest materials, art installations, and a series of online workshops with Hong Kong activists.

At the entrance of the exhibit stands the statue of a young woman marching forward, wearing a respirator and helmet, an umbrella in hand, and waving the signature black protest flag.

Visitors could sit on a series of chairs, with each one narrower than the last — a symbol of the deterioration of Hong Kong’s autonomy over the past two decades. In that same hall, a live-streamed workshop was held on police brutality.

Organizers estimate the Surmount exhibition received at least 50 visitors on weekdays, and 200 to 300 visitors on weekends and holidays.


Photo Credit: James X. Morris

Visitors at the Surmount exhibition read messages written on the special 19th black banner, carried during the July 19th protest in Hong Kong.

Justine, Hong Kong Outlanders spokesperson who goes by a pseudonym, told The News Lens that their original message was to seek continued support for Hong Kong. “But we have been using this for a year now. I think as the Hong Kong movement in Taiwan proceeds, we need to be more specific,” she said.

Hong Kong activists in Taiwan altering their strategy from organizing rallies to awareness campaigns reflects a larger change in the dynamics of the pro-democracy movement. In the past year, Justine noted, the Taipei rallies organized by Hongkongers were “harder” activism.

A year later, Hong Kong activists in Taiwan have grown more united. People like Justine are turning to a “soft power” approach to attract a broader audience in Taiwan with aesthetic values and imagery. Behind the exhibits, the message remains much the same.

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Hong Kong Outlanders raises funding through work with other NGOs, grants, and donations. A lot of support comes through volunteers who have connections to Hong Kong.

“A lot of them are Hong Kong students in Taiwan with occasional adults, like the artists who donated their art to us for the exhibition,” Justine said.

A Taiwanese volunteer, who requested anonymity, said he became involved in the work out of empathy. “The situation in Hong Kong is related to us,” he said.

Taiwan’s youth engaged in their own protests against what they perceived as a loss of economic autonomy to China during the 2014 Sunflower Occupation Movement. Hongkongers and Taiwanese have become closer to each other in recent years due to shared concerns over Beijing’s increasing threats.


Photo Credit: James X. Morris

A livestreamed workshop on police brutality at the Surmount exhibition in Taipei

Hong Kong has managed to gain global attention for its pro-democracy movement partly because of its high rate of internationalization. “We have a lot of people with dual nationality, and we have been trading with the world for a very long time,” Justine said. “When you know a Hong Kong person, this person will always have some relation to a foreign country. It’s inseparable. I like to see Hong Kong people as Hong Kong people of the world.”

Although Taiwan does not have a formal asylum law, the government has established a Taiwan-Hong Kong office and a hotline under Article 18 of the Laws and Regulations Regarding Hong Kong and Macao Affairs. Members of the Outlanders have been following up on the remaining bugs in the hotline system, and they suggest Hongkongers to travel to Taiwan before calling and applying.

“They need to do their research. Don’t just come here and feel like ‘oh the government would save us.’ When you’re in a foreign country, everything costs money. You need to have solid connections. And even though we’re culturally similar, it’s still culturally different,” Justine said.

She described Hong Kong’s situation as being surrounded by walls, but people are breaking out of the boundaries. “The majority of Hong Kong people are seeking a way out of this lie of ‘One country, two systems,’” she said. “Outside of this wall we don’t know what’s there.... but we know we desperately need to leave the situation.”

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TNL Editor: Nicholas Haggerty, Daphne K. Lee (@thenewslensintl)

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