Hong Kong has closed its representative office in Taiwan, in the latest tit-for-tat exchange as Beijing works to isolate Taiwan.
The government of the former British colony said in a statement yesterday that it had “temporarily suspended operations” of the Hong Kong Economic, Trade and Cultural Office, without giving a reason.
The closure is unrelated to the recent rise in COVID-19 cases in Taiwan, a Hong Kong government spokesperson said in an e-mail.
The relationship between Hong Kong’s China-appointed officials and the administration of President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) — a vocal supporter of pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong — has been tense for nearly a year, affecting the informal diplomatic offices that have served as communication conduits between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait.
Last week, Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council complained that Hong Kong officials were dragging their feet on new work permits for employees of its office in the territory, the South China Morning Post reported.
“It is really unfortunate and regrettable that the Hong Kong government would make such a move,” said Alexander Huang (黃介正), a professor of international relations at Tamkang University. “It really serves no one’s interests, especially the people of Hong Kong and Taiwan, and it makes the future of bilateral ties more inconvenient.”
The decision raises the chances that Taiwan responds by closing its office in Hong Kong, Huang added.
Junior employees at TECO faced difficulties getting visas last summer, while Taiwan withheld work permit renewals for staff in Hong Kong’s office in Taipei.
China had earlier insisted that Taiwanese officials serving in Hong Kong sign a statement agreeing that both sides belong to “one China,” leading to the exit of Taipei’s top envoy.
Beijing has taken steps to isolate Taiwan since Tsai was elected in 2016 and refused to endorse its “one China” principle.
China at the same time has been applying increasing military pressure to Taiwan, a move that comes as Taipei boosts ties with Washington.
The Chinese air force sent 25 warplanes over the Taiwan Strait on April 12, the largest such sortie this year.
RESTRICTIONS CONTINUE: People must wear a mask when outdoors, while employers should allow working from home or flexible hours, Chen Shih-chung said The Cabinet yesterday extended a nationwide level 3 COVID-19 alert until June 28 as the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) reported 211 locally transmitted cases and 26 deaths. The CECC on May 15 issued the level 3 alert for Taipei and New Taipei City, saying it would last until May 28. Four days later, it expanded the alert to the entire nation before announcing on May 28 that the alert period had been extended to Monday next week. The latest extension was announced following a disease prevention meeting at the Executive Yuan in Taipei yesterday morning. Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung
PRIORITY GROUPS: A line of people were waiting at the Good Liver Clinic, apparently to get shots, while the CECC announced more priority groups for jabs The Taipei-based Good Liver Clinic is to be fined NT$2 million (US$72,028) after giving free COVID-19 vaccine shots to people not in groups eligible to receive them, Taipei Deputy Mayor Vivian Huang (黃珊珊) said yesterday. The Zhongshan District (中山)-based clinic was removed from the city’s list of vaccination venues and health officials would be investigated for giving 1,113 doses to the clinic, Huang told an afternoon news conference at Taipei City Hall. The Chinese-language Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister paper) on Tuesday in an exclusive story citing an anonymous tip reported that a Taipei clinic was doling out unused vaccines. People in
PHASE 2: The firm’s CEO said that the results were good and the experimental vaccine safe, but added that hoped-for phase 3 trials would be expensive Medigen Vaccine Biologics Corp (高端疫苗) yesterday reported positive results from an interim analysis of phase 2 trials for its COVID-19 vaccine, saying that the vaccine demonstrated high seroconversion rates and geometric mean titer (GMT) figures. A seroconversion rate is the percentage of participants in a trial displaying virus-specific immune memory after being given a vaccine, while the GMT measures the level of neutralizing antibody response, Medigen said. The experimental vaccine has a seroconversion rate of 99.8 percent and its GMT was 662 among the participants aged 20 to 89, while the gauges rose to 99.9 percent and 733 respectively in participants aged
NUMBERS HAVE FALLEN: Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung said there are good signs, but ‘we cannot afford to let our guard down now’ The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) yesterday reported 219 new locally transmitted COVID-19 infections and 22 deaths. Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, said that the 219 local infections — 117 male and 102 female — were aged from under five to over 100 years old, and they began having symptoms between May 22 and Monday. New Taipei City reported 123 cases, followed by Taipei with 54, Miaoli County with 16, Taoyuan with 13, Keelung with eight, Changhua County with two, and one each in Hsinchu City, Taichung and Tainan. The 22 deaths were 15 men and