Seven officials from Taiwan’s Hong Kong office were forced to return to Taiwan on Sunday (June 20) because they refused to sign the so-called “one-China pledge” required by the Hong Kong government and were unable to renew their visas or stay in the country. Taiwan’s mainland affairs committee chairman Chiu Tai-san accused the Hong Kong government of setting up political obstacles by requiring Taiwan personnel in Hong Kong to sign the “one-China undertaking” in order to dwarf Taiwan, which the Republic of China government refused to accept.
In a press conference held in Taipei on Monday (June 21), Chiu Tai-san said that Taiwan and Hong Kong established mutual offices ten years ago based on the principle of reciprocity, and that Taiwan cannot accept the political conditions that the Hong Kong side has unilaterally imposed to dwarf its national identity; and that the “One China pledge” as a prerequisite for the issuance of visas to Taiwan personnel in Hong Kong is a violation of the 2011 Mutual Office Agreement between Taiwan and Hong Kong. Taiwan will not accept this, and “the general public will not agree to such unreasonable demands that renege on the agreement.
Taiwan’s main opposition party, the Kuomintang, also believes that it is unnecessary to require Taiwan personnel in Hong Kong to sign the “one-China pledge”.
Citing an unnamed Taiwanese official, Reuters reported that the Hong Kong government had asked Taiwan officials in Hong Kong who refused to sign the “one-China pledge” to leave the country by June 21. With the departure of seven Taiwanese officials, only one Taiwanese official remains in the Taiwan office in Hong Kong, Ni Bojia, the representative of Taiwan’s Ministry of Economic Affairs in Hong Kong. But Nee’s work visa will also expire at the end of July.
Hong Kong, once a British colony, was returned to China in 1997 under the “one country, two systems” arrangement. Beijing is also committed to faithfully implementing “one country, two systems” in order to preserve Hong Kong’s freedom and its status as an international financial center. Beijing, which also considers Taiwan as part of its territorial sovereignty, has repeatedly proposed to Taiwan the principle of “one country, two systems” in its dealings, but none of Taiwan’s major political parties has accepted this arrangement.
The head of the Land Commission, Chiu Tai-san, accused the Hong Kong government of being subject to Beijing’s unreasonable actions, stressing that “one country, two systems” already exists in name only; and that the Hong Kong government’s poor record of unilateral breach of trust and contract should also raise “international alarm. Chiu criticized Beijing and the Hong Kong government for their “political calculations” in everything they do, so they are the ones who are responsible for damaging Taiwan-Hong Kong relations, and they are the ones who should bear all the responsibility for the damage to people’s rights.
The 2011 exchange of letters between Taiwan and Hong Kong took place during Ma Ying-jeou’s former presidency, when cross-strait relations were relatively smooth. Since President Tsai Ing-wen of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) took charge of Taiwan in 2016, cross-strait relations have deteriorated rapidly, and all official contacts between the two sides have now been almost completely severed. Taiwan’s dynastic support for the protesters after the mass demonstrations calling for and defending democracy and freedom broke out in Hong Kong was also a major reason for angering the Beijing authorities and the Hong Kong government; and Taiwan’s strong opposition to Beijing’s imposition of a Hong Kong version of the National Security Law in Hong Kong and its welcoming of Hong Kong residents to settle in Taiwan has made the Beijing authorities and the Hong Kong government thunderstorm.
The Chairman of the Land Commission, Chiu Tai-san, said that Taiwan would never accept the Hong Kong government’s unreasonable demand to sign the “one-China undertaking” in order to avoid the Taiwan office in Hong Kong becoming a “one-China” breakthrough, which would threaten Taiwan’s democracy and freedom; he hoped that the people of Taiwan and the international community would remain vigilant. He hoped that the Taiwanese people and the international community would remain vigilant and work together to uphold the defense of democracy in Asia.
Chiu Tai-san also spoke of Taiwan’s support for the freedom and democratic demands of the Hong Kong protesters. He pointed out that Taiwan’s solidarity with Hong Kong people in their struggle for democracy and freedom, based on the spirit of constitutionalism and universal values, together with major democratic countries, “should not be used as an excuse for political suppression against Taiwan.
The Taiwan office in Hong Kong will remain at its post to serve the people, and other relevant ministries in Taiwan will also provide full support to the office in Hong Kong, Chiu said. As for the future operation of the office, Chiu Tai-san said that consular services, economic and trade, emergency relief for Taiwanese citizens, as well as tourism and financial cooperation will continue to be handled; the processing of applications for Hong Kong residents to stop residing in Taiwan and mainland residents’ entry permits in Hong Kong will remain unchanged, and some of them will be handled online.
The Hong Kong government last month accused Taiwan of “serious” interference in Hong Kong’s internal affairs, including assistance to “violent protesters” in Hong Kong, and announced the suspension of the operation of the Hong Kong office in Taiwan on this basis. But Taipei denies the allegations. Last Wednesday (June 16), the Macau government also announced the temporary closure of its office in Taiwan.