Macao office in Taipei suspends operation following HK office closure

06/16/2021 05:01 PM
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CNA file photo
CNA file photo

Hong Kong, June 16 (CNA) Macao's representative office in Taiwan on Wednesday announced the indefinite suspension of its operations starting Saturday, but gave no reason for the decision.

In a press release, the Macao Special Administrative Region (MSAR) government said the Macao Economic and Cultural Office in Taiwan will suspend operations starting June 19 while saying that MSAR will continue to look after the needs of Macao residents in Taiwan despite the office's temporarily closure.

"A 24-hour telephone hotline (+853 2833 3000) set up by the Macao Government Tourism Office will be - during the period of operation suspension - addressing general enquires, and providing other services and any assistance requested by Macao residents that are in Taiwan."

"The telephone hotline will also provide people in Taiwan with information about Macao. For the latest information on epidemic-related matters concerning Macao, please call the Novel Coronavirus Coordination and Response Centre on +853 2870 0800.," it added.

The decision was made in the wake of the Hong Kong Economic, Trade and Cultural Office (HKETCO) in Taiwan suspending operations on May 18, after saying Taiwan had "grossly interfered in Hong Kong's affairs on repeated occasions and created irretrievable damage to Hong Kong-Taiwan relations."

The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) said the decision on the closure of its representative office came after Taiwan opened a special office in July 2020 to help Hong Kong asylum seekers.

Taiwan's government said the office provides one-stop services to Hong Kongers who wanted to study, do business, invest, or seek asylum in the country, as part of a humanitarian assistance project Taiwan offered to Hong Kong people after one-year of pro-democracy protests.

HKSAR, however, accused Taiwan of "offering assistance to violent protesters and people who tried to shatter Hong Kong's prosperity and stability."

"Taiwan's series of actions in recent years has severely damaged Hong Kong-Taiwan relations, gradually jeopardizing the operating environment for the HKETCO in Taiwan," according to a HKSAR press release issued on May 21.

Asked to comment on Macao's decision, Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) in charge of cross-strait affairs, on Wednesday expressed "deep regret" over the move, which it described as unilaterally made by the MSAR.

The MAC said it respects the decision and Taiwan's office in Macao will continue to operate in the Chinese special administrative region despite the former's decision.

According to the MAC, the Macao office was set up in 2011 in compliance with a mutual agreement that allowed Taiwan and Macao to open offices in each other's territory. Meanwhile, commenting on the decision, Eilo Yu (余永逸), a professor in the University of Macau's Department of Government and Public Administration, told CNA it was clearly a tough decision to make given that it comes a month after the closure of Hong Kong's office.

The Macau representative office's suspension will definitely affect the cordial relationship between Taiwan and Macao, Yu said.

He believes that Beijing is behind both Hong Kong and Macao's decision, pressuring them to close their respective offices in Taiwan.

In asking the two special administrative regions to close their offices in Taipei, Beijing is hoping it can push Taipei to close its offices in the two regions too, he added.

(By Stanley Cheung and Joseph Yeh)

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