On Sunday, June 20, seven of the eight diplomats stationed at the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) in Hong Kong returned to Taiwan after their visas expired. The island’s government did not renew them because the Taiwanese refused to sign an affidavit officially acknowledging that there is only “one China,” a demand of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
According to the Taipei Times, due to pressure from the CCP, which now controls Hong Kong with the new national security law, Taiwanese diplomats are forced to sign an affidavit acknowledging the “one China” policy with which the CCP does not recognize Taiwan’s autonomy.
“We adamantly refuse to accept the political suppression from Beijing and the Hong Kong government to force our employees to sign a ‘one China’ pledge, and severely warn and condemn them for the unreasonable move,'” the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) said in a statement.
The TECO functions as an unofficial embassy of Taiwan in many countries that maintain diplomatic relations but cannot be formally established due to pressure from the CCP. In fact, the name of the capital, Taipei, is used to avoid mentioning Taiwan.
Through the TECO, visa procedures are carried out for tourism or studies travel to Taiwan. There is also a commercial section with which business—imports or exports—and other consular procedures are coordinated.
The only diplomat who remained stationed in the Hong Kong office is Ni Po-chia, the director of the economic division. Still, his visa expires next month, and there are great expectations about what will happen if he has to return to Taiwan, as it would mean the end of the diplomacy between both islands.
In a June 23 news story, the Taiwanese newspaper published a statement from the MAC Minister confirming that the Hong Kong office would remain in operation “unless its operations are severely hampered.”
Some procedures will be carried out online, and others will remain face-to-face at TECO, such as processing a permit to reside in Taiwan.
“Maintaining our offices in Hong Kong and Macau remains mutually beneficial. Unless there are events that seriously hamper the operation of these offices, we have no plans to close them,” said MAC Minister Chiu Tai-san.
In Macau, another island with some independence from mainland China, Taiwan also had to withdraw some diplomats because the authorities also blocked visas. Macau is also part of “one country two systems.”
Meanwhile, Hong Kong and Macau governments suspended the operations of their representative offices in Taipei on May 18 and June 19, respectively, alleging that the Taiwanese authorities were not granting work visas to their employees.
The Hong Kong government, which is functional to the CCP, accuses Taiwan of supporting the massive protests generated in Hong Kong when the creation of the national security law was announced. The CCP ended the island’s semi-autonomy.
U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price said the United States would support Taiwan in its fight against CCP intimidation.
“Beijing continues its efforts to intimidate the people of Taiwan. The United States will stand by Taiwan in the face of such intimidations, just as we will stand with the people of Hong Kong in the face of Beijing’s efforts to stifle freedom of expression and to stifle dissent in Hong Kong.”
Price stated that the Biden administration is committed to expanding ties with Taiwan as it is a leading democracy and a critical economic and security partner, according to a State Department press release.