Hong Kong closes Taiwan office as relationship worsens.

May 18, 2021

TAIPEI -- The Hong Kong Economic, Trade and Cultural Office (HKETCO) in Taiwan "temporarily" suspended its operations from Tuesday this week, a decision announced by the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government (HKSARG).

Hong Kong gave no reason for the stoppage, saying only that it had nothing to do with a recent surge in domestic COVID-19 cases in Taiwan. The office was established in 2011.

The South China Morning Post reported that the decision to close the office with immediate effect was made in the early hours of Tuesday by Hong Kong's Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau, which is in charge of the relationship between Hong Kong and Taiwan.

The closure follows claims by Taiwan last week that Hong Kong had refused to renew work permits for staff at its own de facto consulate in Hong Kong.

Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council (MAC), expressed "deep regret", describing the decision as one unilaterally made by the Hong Kong Government.

There are reports that the Macao Government office in Taipei may also close, while a spokesman for Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council told Taiwan legislators earlier this week that eight remaining Taiwanese staff at the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) in Hong Kong have visas valid only to the end of 2021.

They had applied for renewal of their visas, he said.

TECO-Hong Kong, which is operated by Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council, was also established in July 2011.

In 2020, four officials of TECO-Hong Kong, including its acting Director-General, were forced to return to Taiwan after the HKSAR Government refused to renew their visas.

Media reports said at the time that they were denied visa extensions for refusing to sign an affidavit recognising Beijing's "One China" principle, which proclaims that Taiwan is part of China.