Hong Kong Photograph:( AFP )
A Hong Kong government representative did not provide an explanation for the decision to halt operations at the Hong Kong Economic, Trade and Cultural Office, adding only that the decision was not related to the recent rise in coronavirus cases in Taiwan
Hong Kong government on Tuesday suspended operations at its representative office in Taiwan in a sign of escalating diplomatic tensions between the global financial hub and the democratically ruled island that Beijing claims.
Tension between Hong Kong's Beijing-backed government and Taiwan have risen since pro-democracy protests erupted in Hong Kong in 2019 and China responded by imposing a sweeping national security law in the city that prompted many activists to leave, some for Taiwan.
A Hong Kong government representative did not provide an explanation for the decision to halt operations at the Hong Kong Economic, Trade and Cultural Office, adding only that the decision was not related to the recent rise in coronavirus cases in Taiwan.
"The suspension is not related to the pandemic situation in Taiwan. We do not have anything further to add," the representative said in a statement.
Taiwan's government said that while it respected the decision, it also regretted it.
"We express deep regret at today's unilateral decision by the Hong Kong government," Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council said in a statement.
Taiwan has criticised the security law that Beijing imposed in Hong Kong and opened an office in Taipei to help people who may want to leave.
In August last year, China intercepted a boat carrying 12 people from Hong Kong, who had all faced charges related to the anti-government protests, and were apparently looking to escape to Taiwan.
Last year, Taiwan officials in Hong Kong were told their visas would not be renewed unless they signed a document supporting Beijing's claim to Taiwan under its 'one China' policy, a person with direct knowledge of the matter said.
Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council said this month, there were only eight Taiwanese staff members left at its de facto consulate in Hong Kong, and that all their visas were due to expire this year.
Hong Kong's Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau said the suspension in operations meant requests for assistance from Hong Kong people in Taiwan would be handled through hotlines and via a Hong Kong government website.
(With inputs from agencies)