TAIPEI— In an escalating dispute over China’s sovereignty claims over Taiwan, Taiwan criticised Hong Kong on Monday, prompting it to withdraw officials from its representative office in the Chinese-run city.
Taiwanese employees at the island’s representative office in Hong Kong began leaving the former British colony on Sunday, June 20, after the Hong Kong government demanded that Taiwan officials sign a document supporting Beijing’s “one China” claim to Taiwan.
“Their purpose was obviously to diminish our national dignity and force our staff to bow to the Beijing authorities,” Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council head, Chiu Tai-san, told reporters.
He stated that, as a result of Hong Kong’s “unreasonable” request, Taiwan could no longer send officials to the financial hub and had to withdraw staff whose work visas were about to expire.
“Our government stands firm in defending national dignity and issues a firm condemnation and warning to the Chinese Communist Party and the Hong Kong government,” he said.
In a statement to Reuters, the Hong Kong government said Taiwan was “confusing right and wrong.”
“The government of the Special Administrative Region must emphasise that Hong Kong and Taiwan are part of the same China,” it added.
According to a senior Taiwan official familiar with the situation, Hong Kong’s government has ordered Taiwan officials who refuse to sign the document to leave the city by June 21.
Former colonial power Britain returned Hong Kong to China in 1997 as part of a “one country, two systems” formula aimed at preserving the city’s freedoms and role as an international financial hub.
China considers Taiwan to be its own territory and has offered the island the same “one country, two systems” model, albeit under Chinese sovereignty.
The idea is not supported by any of Taiwan’s major political parties.
Hong Kong has become a source of contention between Taipei and Beijing, particularly after Taiwan slammed a new security law imposed by Beijing on Hong Kong and began welcoming Hong Kong residents to settle on the democratic island.
Chiu stated that the Hong Kong office will continue to operate, but Taiwan will take “necessary measures” if its presence there is jeopardised further. He didn’t go into details.
Hong Kong suspended operations at its representative office in Taiwan last month, accusing authorities there of “gross” interference in Hong Kong’s internal affairs, including its offer to assist “violent” protesters, charges Taiwan denied.
On Wednesday, the government of Macau ceased operations at its office in Taiwan.