Seven of the remaining eight personnel at the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) in Hong Kong returned home yesterday after being ordered by the Hong Kong government to leave the territory by today after failing to obtain work visas.
The governments of Hong Kong and Macau suspended the operations of their representative offices in Taipei on May 18 and June 19 respectively, saying that Taiwanese authorities did not grant work visas to their employees.
Of the office’s five division heads, only Economy Division Director Ni Po-chia (倪伯嘉) remains, although his visa is to expire at the end of next month.
The Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) in a statement yesterday said: “Since July 2018, the Hong Kong government has repeatedly set unreasonable political conditions whenever our employees applied for work visas, including requiring them to sign a pledge to observe the ‘one China’ policy. This made it impossible for our employees to assume office or continue to stay in Hong Kong. As such, there would be an adjustment in the businesses handled by the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Hong Kong, starting June 21,” the council said.
“Using the ‘one China’ policy as a barrier, Beijing and Hong Kong have disrupted staff rotation and operations at Taiwan’s office in Hong Kong. They unilaterally contravened terms of the agreement between Taiwan and Hong Kong that was signed in 2011. They are solely responsible for damaging Taiwan-Hong Kong relations, and hurting the welfare and interests of people in Taiwan and in Hong Kong,” it added.
“We adamantly refuse to accept the political suppression from Beijing and the Hong Kong government to force our employees to sign a ‘one China’ pledge, and severely warn and condemn them for the unreasonable move,” the council said.
It thanked the employees at the office for carrying on with their duties despite the political pressure.
The adjustment would ensure that the office would continue providing services to people without compromising quality, the council said, adding that it hoped that people in Taiwan can understand and support the council.
Taiwan’s relations with Hong Kong have deteriorated since 2018, when the two failed to settle legal issues over the extradition of Chan Tong-kai (陳同佳), a Hong Konger who reportedly confessed to murdering his girlfriend while on holiday in Taiwan. The two governments have yet to resolve the issues.
The case prompted the Hong Kong government to stipulate a now-scrapped extradition bill, which would have facilitated the transfer of fugitives on the order of the chief executive to any jurisdiction with which the territory lacks a formal extradition treaty.
However, the inclusion of China in the bill sparked year-long protests, as Hong Kongers feared it would further erode the distinction between the territory’s judicial system and the one administered by the Chinese Communist Party, and legitimize extraditions of political dissidents to China.
Taiwan’s support for the pro-democracy protests enraged the Hong Kong government. It suspended the operations of its office in Taiwan, accusing the nation of “rudely intervening in the internal affairs of Hong Kong.”
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