Hong Kong has suspended the operation of its Economic, Trade and Cultural Office in Taiwan.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, the government said it “will continue to handle general enquiries and requests for assistance made by Hong Kong residents in Taiwan” through its 1823 and 1868 hotlines and the GovHK website.

Hong Kong Economic, Trade and Cultural Office (Taiwan). File photo: Wikicommons.

A spokesperson for the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau told HKFP that the closure was not related the latest Covid-19 outbreak on the island, though would not comment further.

Last July, weeks after Beijing imposed a controversial security law on Hong Kong, Taiwan’s top acting representative in the SAR left the city. Kao Ming-tsun reportedly refused to sign a statement supporting the “One China” policy in exchange for a work visa extension.

According to Taiwan’s Deputy Minister of the Mainland Affairs Council, Chiu Chui-cheng, visas of the eight remaining Taiwan staff of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Hong Kong – which are due to expire this year – have yet to be renewed by the Hong Kong government, Stand News reported.

The Hong Kong government has also yet to issue a visa to the Head of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office, Lu Chang-shui, who was appointed by the Taiwan Mainland Affairs Council in June 2018.

Taiwan has been ruled by the Republic of China government since 1945 after Japan — which occupied the island for 50 years — was defeated in the Second World War. The People’s Republic of China claims that Taiwan is one of its provinces and does not recognise it as an independent country.

The trade office was opened in Taipei in May 2012 as a means to promote economic and cultural exchanges.

Additional reporting: Candice Chau.

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Tom is the editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hong Kong Free Press. He has a BA in Communications & New Media from Leeds University and an MA in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong. He has contributed to the BBC, Euronews, Quartz, Global Post and others.