Tue, 15 Jun 2021

Hong Kong, May 18 (ANI): Amid worsening cross-strait relations, Hong Kong's office in Taiwan is being officially closed from Tuesday.

Citing sources, South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported that the decision to close the Hong Kong Economic, Trade and Cultural Office (Taiwan) with immediate effect was made by the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau that is in charge of the relationship between the city and Taipei.

The office was opened in December 2011 with the primary role of promoting business and cultural exchanges between Hong Kong and Taiwan.

An official statement read: "During the temporary suspension of [Hong Kong Economic, Trade and Cultural Office] operations, the government ... will continue to handle general enquiries and requests for assistance made by Hong Kong residents in Taiwan."The closure comes two monthsafter Stella Poon Wai-sum, general manager of the Hong Kong Trade Development Council's Taiwan office, announced she would leave her post at the end of March citing "personal career development", reported SCMP.

Relations between Hong Kong and Taiwan had strained over the years following the former's refusal to send local resident Chan Tong-kai, who is suspected of murdering his girlfriend during a 2018 visit to Taiwan, to stand trial on the island.

The situation took a turn for the worse when Taipei accused Hong Kong of ignoring its requests to renew work permits for the staff of its de facto consulate in the city, which has made it impossible for eight employees to stay in Hong Kong after their permits expire at the end of the year, according to Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council.

Taipei has in turn stopped issuing or renewing work permits for Hong Kong officials based on the island, citing "parity and reciprocity" and "upholding national dignity," according to the sources in the council.

Observers say that the latest development could see Taiwan-Hong Kong relations revert to the most basic interactions as was the case decades ago due to the problems surrounding work permit renewals in both jurisdictions, reported SCMP.

Taiwan also has strained ties with China. Beijing also claims full sovereignty over Taiwan, a democracy of almost 24 million people located off the southeastern coast of mainland China, despite the fact that the two sides have been governed separately for more than seven decades. (ANI)

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