Hong Kong | Hong Kong has decided to temporarily close its representative office in Taiwan, Hong Kong officials said Tuesday, which may reflect new tensions between the two regions.
The Hong Kong authorities said in a brief statement that did not provide any justification for this decision, “The Hong Kong Economic, Trade and Cultural Bureau has temporarily suspended its operations as of today.”
A Hong Kong government spokesman said the decision had nothing to do with placing the island on the pandemic front. Pollution outbreaks have just been recorded in Taiwan, where social distancing measures have been taken.
Asked if the shutdown was related to political issues, the spokesperson refused to provide any answer.
For its part, the Taiwan Council of Continental Affairs, which deals with relations with China, expressed its “deep regret at the unilateral decision of the Hong Kong government” and said that its office in the former British colony would remain open.
The official position of the Hong Kong authorities in Taiwan is the same as that of Beijing, which sees the island as a rebellious province destined to return to the embrace of the motherland, by force if necessary.
Like Beijing, Hong Kong recognizes no legitimacy to the Taiwan authorities. But there is huge bilateral trade between Hong Kong and Taiwan. According to the Hong Kong CEO, Taiwan is Hong Kong’s second largest trading partner.
The representative offices were set up at a time when relations between the two countries were warmer.
The Hong Kong Taiwan office opened in 2011 and plays a similar role to that of a consulate, especially to deal with Hong Kong residents living on the island.
However, since Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen came to power in 2016, the two representative office activity has suffered from the deterioration of relations between Taiwan and China from a party traditionally hostile to Beijing.
For several months, Hong Kong was the scene of a massive popular mobilization to demand democratic reforms and denounce Beijing’s interference in the affairs of the province, which is supposed to enjoy wide autonomy.
And in 2020, the Chinese authorities began a strong takeover of their region, particularly by imposing a strict national security law on it, which led to the exodus of many people.
President Tsai, a Beijing pet, promised to support the pro-democracy Hong Kong camp and set up a special office last year to deal with Hong Kong residents seeking to move to the island. What angered Beijing.
Nearly 11,000 people moved from Hong Kong to Taiwan in 2020, which is a record number.