Heart and Soul – Ticket to Taiwan

Cindy Sui discovers how the Chè-lâm Presbyterian Church in central Taipei has been helping Hong Kong activists who have fled to Taiwan in the aftermath of the large-scale anti-government protests in 2019 and since the introduction of the region’s national security law.

The Lunar New Year is a time when families usually come together and celebrate, but the Hongkongers that Cindy meets are unable to return to their homeland. Instead, they find support and a sense of community at the church which offers a service in Cantonese.

As Dr Roselyn Hsueh, associate professor of Political Science at Temple University explains, the Chè-lâm Presbyterian Church in Taiwan has a history of supporting pro-democracy activism. We discover that during the 2019 protests in Hong Kong, it organised a collection of US$160,000 worth of protective gear (gas masks, helmets, bulletproof vests, eye protection) which was shipped over to frontline activists – even though they sometimes used violent means.

Upon arrival in Taiwan, many political refugees reach out to the church for help. In addition to spiritual support, the church meets their medical, psychological and social needs. Cindy uncovers why a large proportion of the activists who first fled to Taiwan have now left the island. Others are in visa limbo. Many suffer from PTSD.

Produced by Victoria Ferran
Broadcast:  12 May on BBC World Service