TAIPEI (Kyodo) -- Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said Wednesday her government will form a task force to deal with a possible influx of people from Hong Kong amid plans by China to impose a sweeping national security law in the territory.
Tsai said the task force will examine and integrate all government resources to carry out an "action plan for providing humanitarian assistance" to people of Hong Kong wishing to relocate to the island.
"We hope to roll out details of the plan shortly," she told reporters.
Government data show that the number of Hong Kong people residing in Taiwan grew by 41 percent in a year to reach 5,858 last year.
Tsai said as she expects the trend to continue, it is necessary to form the task force to deal with the matter properly.
However, she stopped short of promising to enact a new refugee law, saying the Laws and Regulations Regarding Hong Kong and Macao Affairs would remain sufficient.
"One certain thing is that our determination to take care of the people of Hong Kong remains unchanged," Tsai said.
Over the weekend Tsai commented on social media that if there is a "change in the situation" in Hong Kong, Taipei could suspend the special status it extends to the city under Article 18 of the Laws and Regulations Regarding Hong Kong and Macao Affairs.
The Facebook post triggered concern that a suspension of the special status could make it harder for people from Hong Kong to visit Taiwan, prompting calls for the government to amend the refugee law.
China's parliament announced Friday it will pass a resolution to begin the process of enacting a national security law for Hong Kong.
China's decision to sidestep the local legislative process has drawn concerns from foreign countries, including the United States, Britain and Canada over its impact on Hong Kong's guaranteed rights and freedoms.
Also Wednesday, a coalition of civic groups staged a protest in Taipei, condemning Beijing's push for the legislation as a crackdown on Hong Kong's autonomy and urging the Tsai administration to take concrete actions to better protect asylum seekers from the former British colony.
About 20 people took part in the protest, which was held outside the trade office of Hong Kong and also included a press conference.
Representatives were of one voice that the legislation will effectively abolish the "one country, two systems" policy and put Hong Kong under Beijing's complete control. They also urged the Taiwanese government to put in place a system to protect Hong Kong people fleeing to Taiwan.
A spokeswoman for Hong Kong Outlanders, a group comprised of Hong Kongers in Taiwan, said the proposed national security legislation, which is expected to be passed Thursday, only exposes the fear and insecurity of the Communist Party of China.
"The CPC is a regime that is afraid of popular elections," said the spokeswoman, who requested to be identified as Justine.
The group added that they expect many Hong Kong people to come to Taiwan for protection once the new coronavirus outbreak subsides.
Referring to Tsai's Facebook post, Taiwan Citizen Front spokesman Chiang Min-yen called on Tsai to take actions that do not impact ordinary Hong Kong people.
Chiang said civic groups in Taiwan and nongovernmental organizations consisting of Hong Kongers in Taiwan will visit embassies and trade offices across the island to call on them to provide political asylum to Hong Kong protesters and address the issue.