Taiwan’s representative office in Hong Kong would continue to operate even though most Taiwanese posted at the office have been forced home due to visa issues, Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) Minister Chiu Tai-san (邱太三) said on Monday.
The Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) in Hong Kong has only one Taiwanese official left, but would continue to serve the public, Chiu told a virtual news conference.
The office still has local staff, but Chiu did not say how many people are employed there.
The MAC-administered office has 19 Taiwanese staffers under normal circumstances.
Chiu’s statement came after seven Taiwanese officials on Sunday were forced to return home due to the refusal of Hong Kong authorities to extend their visas, bringing the total number of Taiwanese officials forced home for the same reason to 11 since last year.
The Hong Kong government in July 2018 began asking Taiwanese staff to sign an affidavit recognizing Beijing’s “one China” principle as a precondition for a visa, Chiu said, adding that Taiwan does not accept that political condition.
Chiu said that the location and telephone numbers of TECO Hong Kong remain unchanged, and it would continue to provide consular services, such as authenticating documents, and issuance of passports and visas.
Applications by Hong Kong residents for visitor entry permits would be processed online, while applications for residency in Taiwan would still be handled at the TECO Hong Kong office, he said.
Residents of mainland China have to apply for entry to Taiwan online, while interviews related to travel for reuniting with family or getting married will be done at a port of entry upon arrival in Taiwan instead of at TECO Hong Kong, he said.
Other services, such as emergency assistance to nationals and trade promotion, would also continue, he said.
For educational exchanges, a Web site will be established to allow Hong Kong students apply to study in Taiwan, and the Ministry of Education will set up hotlines to provide consultations for Taiwanese students in Hong Kong, he added.
The Hong Kong office is not the only one losing Taiwanese staff.
A similar situation is playing out in Macau, where TECO Macau has only five Taiwanese left.
The visa of TECO Macau’s acting head is to expire on Sunday, while the visas of remaining staff are to expire before November.
Even so, Chiu said that the MAC has no plan to close the offices in the territories for the time being.
“Maintaining our offices in Hong Kong and Macau is still mutually beneficial. Unless there are developments that seriously hinder the operation of these offices, we do not have a plan to close them,” he said.
Separately, US Department of State spokesman Ned Price said that the US will stand by Taiwan as it faces intimidation from China.
“Beijing has continued its efforts to intimidate the people on Taiwan,” Price said, adding: “We will stand by Taiwan in the face of such intimidations.”
Describing the nation as a critical economic and security partner, Price said that the US is committed to deepening ties with Taiwan and that its support is “rock solid.”
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