Hong Kong Closed Trade Office in Taiwan for Its Support of Activists
(Bloomberg) -- Hong Kong said it closed its trade office in Taiwan because of Taipei’s support for pro-democracy activists, confirming speculation that the move had been prompted by rising tensions across the Taiwan Strait.
Hong Kong’s Beijing-backed government said Friday that Taiwan had “grossly interfered” in the city’s affairs on repeated occasions and “created irretrievable damage” to the relationship that the Hong Kong Economic, Trade and Cultural Office was intended to support. The city also complained that staff members for the office had been “threatened by radicals,” making it harder to operate safely.
Earlier this week, Hong Kong announced that it had “temporarily” suspended the office’s operations and that the move was unrelated to the current coronavirus outbreak in Taiwan. China has been ramping up diplomatic pressure on Taiwan since the democratically ruled island elected President Tsai Ing-wen in 2016, a vocal critic of the Communist Party in Beijing and a supporter of protesters in Hong Kong.
“We will closely monitor the development of the situation and consider the way forward for the HKETCO in a holistic manner,” the Hong Kong government said.
The Mainland Affairs Council in Taipei said in a statement on its website that Hong Kong obviously had a political purpose in distorting facts to justify closing the office. Taiwan can’t agree with Hong Kong’s comments, as both sides set up trade offices to provide services for the public, without touching on political issues such as the ‘1992 consensus.’
Beijing argues the island is part of its territory, although the party has never controlled it. Tsai argues Taiwan is already a sovereign nation and has urged Beijing to restore communications between the two sides.
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