Taiwan opened an office on Wednesday to help people fleeing Hong Kong after China imposed new national security laws in the city, with a senior minister saying Taiwan would continue to support freedom and democracy in Hong Kong.

The contentious laws which came into force on Wednesday will punish crimes of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison, heralding a more authoritarian era for the Asian financial hub.

Anti-government protests in Hong Kong have won widespread and cross-party support in democratic and Chinese-claimed Taiwan, where the laws have been widely condemned. Some 200 Hong Kongers have already fled to the island since pro-democracy demonstrations began last year, rights groups say.