Pro-Beijing and pro-Taiwan demonstrators vie for attention during a rally in Hong Kong. Photo: Central News Agency, Taiwan

Taiwan on Wednesday opened a new office to deal with Hong Kongers wanting to move to the island after Beijing passed a sweeping security law for the city.

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen had pledged a humanitarian “action plan” after Chinese authorities announced the proposed law, which was passed on Tuesday.

The Taiwan-Hong Kong Office for Exchanges and Services in Taipei will, among other tasks, handle applications from Hong Kongers seeking to stay in Taiwan for “political reasons.” 

“This is an important landmark for the government to further realize its support for Hong Kong’s democracy and freedom,” Chen Ming-tong, chairman of Taiwan’s top China policy body, told reporters.

“The whole world needs to be concerned” about the law, Chen said.

About 5,000 Hong Kongers moved to Taiwan last year as the city was shaken by massive anti-government protests.

They included activists seeking sanctuary and others looking to pursue a new life in Taiwan – considered one of Asia’s most progressive democracies.

Taiwan’s government said it will cover “necessary expenses” for those who come to the island for political reasons because their freedom and safety are under threat.

Taiwan does not have an asylum or refugee law and the cabinet will still make the final decision in such applications on a case-by-case basis.

Chen has said the new office is “not a rescue” project and will also deal with requests from Hong Kongers seeking to study or work and companies looking to invest in Taiwan.