Two properties owned by the Taiwanese government in Hong Kong are at risk of being confiscated by the Hong Kong government, a source said on Sunday.
The source said the concerns first arose after seven officials were recalled from the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in June, after they refused to sign a pledge to observe Beijing’s “one China” principle.
“Although Beijing has so far not made things difficult for remaining employees at the office, if the Taiwan-Hong Kong relationship worsens further, it is not inconceivable it will confiscate the properties,” the source said. “It would be better to have a plan in place sooner than later.”
Beijing has accused Taiwanese officials of involvement in the protests that rocked Hong Kong from 2019 to last year, and therefore it would not be unexpected if it took a further step and seized Taiwanese property in the territory, the source said.
Citing an example of what could happen, the source said that Beijing had initially interfered with the US’ sale of a consulate housing complex in December last year, with the sale only going through two months later after negotiations between Beijing and Washington.
The Taiwanese government owns one property in the Tsim Sha Tsui area of Hong Kong’s Kowloon District, which is being used by the Overseas Chinese Culture and Education Foundation to recruit students for universities in Taiwan.
It also owns one property in Hong Kong’s New Territories, which was set up as a school through funding from the Ministry of Education in 1992, the source said, adding that the Taiwanese government only owns the building, while the land is owned by the Hong Kong Government.
The building, worth NT$400 million (US$14.36 million), is being rented to Hong Kong Baptist University, the source said.
Under New Territories regulations, the Taiwanese government can continue renting the land the building is on until June 30, 2047, the source said.
The Mainland Affairs Council has invited the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the National Property Administration to discuss how to deal with the properties, but there have been disagreements on how to proceed, the source said.
“The Mainland Affairs Council sees the properties as ‘overseas properties,’ but the National Property Administration insists they be treated as domestic properties,” the source said. “The National Property Administration does not want the Ministry of Foreign Affairs involved with the properties.”
Confusion over the issue can be traced back to the handover of Hong Kong to Beijing in 1997, after which properties in Hong Kong became the responsibility of the Mainland Affairs Council, the source said.
However, Article 29 of the National Property Act (國有財產法) stipulates that national property in other countries “shall not be disposed of without the approval of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the agreement of the Ministry of Finance.”
The act allows for some exceptions, in which cases the sale or the disposal of the property should be reported to the two ministries.
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