All Taiwanese officials in Hong Kong could be forced home this year

05/10/2021 08:50 PM
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CNA photo May 10, 2021
CNA photo May 10, 2021

Taipei, May 10 (CNA) Visas of all remaining Taiwanese officials at the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) in Hong Kong will expire within this year, raising concerns that the operation of the consular-level office that represents Taiwan's interests in the special administrative region will be seriously affected.

During a legislative session on Monday, Chiu Chui-cheng (邱垂正), spokesman of Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council (MAC), told legislators that there are currently only eight Taiwanese officials remaining in the Hong Kong TECO and that the validity of their visas will only last until year's end.

However, Chiu told legislators that the office has activated a "proxy mechanism" so that there will be no leadership vacuum in the different departments in the office.

He added that the 55 locally hired personnel in the office are doing their best to maintain the office's normal operations, such as Taiwan visa issuance and document authentication.

Asked by legislators whether the visas of the eight Taiwanese officials will be renewed, Chiu said they have applied for visa renewals with the Hong Kong authorities in accordance with relevant regulations.

However, the Hong Kong side has yet to give a positive response to their applications, he said.

He urged the Hong Kong authorities to respect an agreement signed by the two sides in 2011 on the exchange of offices between both sides.

TECO-Hong Kong, operated by the Mainland Affairs Council, was established in July 2011 when Taipei-Beijing relations were relatively calmer under the previous Kuomintang government. It replaced the Chung Hwa Travel Service, which had carried out similar functions for more than four decades at that time.

The office has lacked a chief since 2018, as Hong Kong has yet to issue a visa to its new head, Lu Chang-shui (盧長水), amid worsening ties between Taipei and Beijing.

In 2020, Kao Ming-tsun (高銘村), acting director-general of TECO-Hong Kong, along with three other Taiwanese officials, were forced to return to Taiwan after the Hong Kong government refused to extend their visas.

Media reports said at the time that they were denied visa extensions for refusing to sign an affidavit recognizing Beijing's "One China" principle.

Meanwhile, during the same legislative session, Chiu urged Beijing to stop its military coercion against Taiwan and to settle differences on cross-Taiwan Strait issues through dialogue.

Chiu, however, reiterated that there is no need for Taiwan to discuss the "1992 consensus," the recognition of which is Beijing's precondition for the resumption of cross-strait dialogue.

This is because by Beijing's definition, the essence of the consensus is the so-called "One China" principle, which is not acceptable for the majority of the Taiwanese people, he said.

(By Lai Yen-hsi and Emerson Lim)

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