The last Taiwanese official at the nation’s representative office in Hong Kong was forced home on Friday afternoon after Hong Kong authorities refused to extend his visa.
Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) wrote on Facebook that Economy Division Director Ni Bo-chia (倪伯嘉) of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) in Hong Kong returned to Taipei at 3:25pm, leaving the office with only local staff.
The council, which administers the office, said in a separate statement that the office’s operations have not been affected, and that the government had drafted a plan in preparation for such a scenario.
Photo courtesy of the Mainland Affairs Council
The MAC urged “relevant parties” to consider the welfare of Taiwanese and Hong Kongers, and stop political actions that would harm long-term relations between Taiwan and the territory.
“TECO Hong Kong plays an important part in the positive development of Taiwan-Hong Kong relations,” the MAC said. “Both Taiwanese and Hong Kongers would hate to see the office incapacitated due to unnecessary political considerations.”
TECO, which represents Taiwan’s interests in the territory, normally has 19 Taiwanese staffers from various government agencies. They have been forced to return one after another in the past few years, after Hong Kong refused to extend their visas and would not issue visas to their successors.
Last month, MAC Minister Chiu Tai-san (邱太三) confirmed media reports that the Hong Kong government in July 2018 started asking Taiwanese officials to sign an affidavit recognizing Beijing’s “one China” principle as a precondition for a visa.
“Taiwan will not accept such a political condition,” Chiu said at the time.
Taiwan-Hong Kong relations began to sour in 2014 during the “Umbrella movement,” after the Hong Kong government accused Taiwan of supporting protesters and political dissidents in the territory.
The situation worsened in 2019, when Hong Kong authorities said they were unhappy with Taiwan’s support for the months-long pro-democracy movement.
The Hong Kong government closed its office in Taiwan in May.
A similar situation is playing out in Macau, where as of last month TECO had only four Taiwanese staffers, with the longest visa among them valid until October next year.
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