Taiwan pledges to keep Hong Kong office despite ‘one China’ dispute
HONG KONG – Taiwan’s top mainland policy official on Monday pledged to keep representative offices open in Hong Kong and Macau, even after the two territories recently closed operations in Taipei.
Chiu Tai-san, minister of the Taiwan Mainland Council, told reporters online that Taiwan would maintain its presence in Hong Kong with some immediate “adjustments”. What this would imply was not clear.
His comments came after several Taiwanese staff at the Taipei Economic and Cultural Bureau in Hong Kong were forced to leave the Chinese-ruled city over the weekend after refusing to sign a document recognizing Beijing’s principle according to which there is only “one China”, apparently in exchange for visa renewals.
Despite the conflict, Taiwanese services such as issuing visas, accepting visitation requests from Hong Kong citizens, promoting trade, culture and tourism, and organizing student exchanges are expected to continue. to pursue. Indeed, on Monday morning, the Taiwan affiliate offices in Hong Kong appeared to be operating as usual.
A woman working in a visa office told Nikkei Asia that there had been “no influence” on services, while a staff member at a trade office also confirmed that operations were not not affected.
Still, Chiu condemned the requirement that staff members sign the “One China” document, saying the 2011 agreement governing the relationship did not include any such agreement. The agreement led to the opening of unofficial platforms to enhance cooperation and positive interactions between the two sides. China regards Taiwan as a separatist province.
According to the Taiwanese side, Hong Kong began pressuring new Taiwanese officials to sign the “One China” pledge in November 2018 as a condition for issuing visas. Taipei has always refused to comply.
“We never agreed to attach any political preconditions,” Chiu said.
Asked for comment on Monday, the Hong Kong government did not respond directly to the Nikkei’s question about the existence of a “one China” commitment in the 2011 agreement, but it criticized Chiu’s comments as “confusing cause and effect” and “confusing right with wrong.”
Taiwan’s stance on maintaining operations in Chinese territories contrasts sharply with the sudden shutdown by Hong Kong authorities of their Taipei office last month. At the time, a Hong Kong spokesperson said in a statement that Taipei had “grossly interfered with Hong Kong affairs on several occasions and caused irreparable damage” to the relationship. The statement cited Taiwan embarking on a project to accept Hong Kong citizens after Beijing imposed a strict national security law on the city last summer.
The Hong Kong declaration even made rare mention of the controversial “1992 Consensus”. This ambiguous understanding of the Communist Party and the Taiwanese opposition Kuomintang refers to the idea that both sides of the Taiwan Strait are part of a “one China”, but leaves room for each side to interpret what this is. means.
The ruling Progressive Democratic Party in Taiwan does not recognize the consensus.
The Macau government followed suit this month, abruptly pulling out of Taipei without providing a reason. Macau and Taiwan also opened their mutual offices in 2011.
Macau’s sudden shutdown came just after China made its biggest show of military force against Taiwan, sending 28 planes, including nuclear-capable fighter jets and bombers, to the defense identification zone. aerial view of Taiwan. Meanwhile, the Chinese Communist Party is preparing for massive celebrations of its centenary, as well as the 24th anniversary of the handover of Hong Kong to the UK.
Chiu confirmed on Monday that all staff from Hong Kong to Taiwan had left. Two Macanese officials remain for the time being, but both offices have closed, he said.
Five Taiwanese staff are in Macau, Chiu said. One has a visa that expires on Sunday, while the longest visa among staff runs until October 2022.
Even as Beijing intensifies political pressure, the economic and human interactions between Taiwan and Hong Kong are deep and pervasive.
Passenger flights between Hong Kong and Taipei were the busiest of all international routes in 2019, in terms of capacity, before the coronavirus disrupted air travel. About 22,000 seats were provided per day, according to OAG Aviation Worldwide.
Hong Kong trade statistics show the territory imported HK $ 405.69 billion ($ 52.3 billion) in goods from Taiwan last year, making the island its second-largest supplier behind China. continental. Hong Kong exported HK $ 4.91 billion to the Autonomous Island, its third destination after mainland China and the United States
However, political tensions increasingly overshadow these links.
“Poor diplomatic relations between governments are likely to hamper healthy trade relations and complicate trade,” A2 Global Risk said on Monday. The London-based consultancy further warned: “Companies with interests in Greater China should assess the impact of deteriorating bilateral relations on strategy and operations.”