Hong Kong (AFP)
Hong Kong is temporarily closing its representative office in Taiwan, officials said on Tuesday in the latest indication of strained ties.
“The Hong Kong Economic, Commercial and Cultural Bureau (Taiwan) has temporarily suspended operations with effect from today,” the Hong Kong government said in a brief statement, which did not explain the reason. closing.
A government spokesperson told AFP the decision “has nothing to do with the coronavirus situation” in Taiwan where cases have recently skyrocketed and prompted the reimposition of some social distancing measures.
When asked if the shutdown was related to politics, the spokesperson declined to comment.
Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council, which manages relations with China, said it was working on a response.
Hong Kong adheres to authoritarian China’s view that democratic and autonomous Taiwan is part of its territory and must one day be seized, by force if necessary.
Like Beijing, Hong Kong does not recognize the Taiwanese authorities as legitimate.
However, the trade between Hong Kong and Taiwan is huge.
According to the Hong Kong government, Taiwan is its second largest trading partner, its third market for domestic exports, its fifth re-export market and its second largest source of imports.
Representative offices were opened during a warmer bond period.
The Hong Kong office began operations in 2011 and acts much like a consulate, handling inquiries from residents of Taiwan as well as trade and cultural exchanges.
Taiwan has an equivalent office in Hong Kong.
But offices have been caught in the degrading relationship between Taiwan and China.
Taiwan has said publicly in recent years how its officials have struggled to obtain visas.
Earlier this month, Taiwan warned that only eight officials remained at the Hong Kong office and their visas would only last until the end of the year.
The democratically elected President of Taiwan, President Tsai Ing-wen, supported Hong Kong’s democratic movement, which was quashed by a sweeping crackdown on dissent.
Taipei said it was open to Hong Kong people seeking to relocate there.
Hong Kong and Beijing bristled at this invitation as well as at Taipei’s criticism of Hong Kong’s disappearance of freedoms.
© 2021 AFP