Seven staff members at the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) in Hong Kong returned to Taiwan on Sunday after they refused to sign a Hong Kong government-issued “One China” pledge negating Taiwanese sovereignty and were subsequently denied work visas by the Beijing-controlled city, the Taipei Times reported Monday.
“Of the [TECO] office’s five division heads, only Economy Division Director Ni Po-chia remains, although his visa is to expire at the end of next month,” the Taipei Times reported June 21.
“Since July 2018, the Hong Kong government has repeatedly set unreasonable political conditions whenever our employees applied for work visas, including requiring them to sign a pledge to observe the ‘one China’ policy,” Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) said in a statement issued June 20.
“This made it impossible for our employees to assume office or continue to stay in Hong Kong. As such, there would be an adjustment in the businesses handled by the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office [TECO] in Hong Kong, starting June 21,” the MAC wrote, referring to its recall of seven of the eight remaining staff members at TECO’s Hong Kong office.
China refuses to acknowledge Taiwan’s sovereignty and claims the self-ruled island is a “renegade” Chinese territory that is part of “one China.”
“Using the ‘one China’ policy as a barrier, Beijing and Hong Kong have disrupted staff rotation and operations at Taiwan’s office in Hong Kong,” the MAC noted Sunday.
“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 MAC’s statement further read.
The MAC directs cross-strait relations between Taiwan and China. The council also decides and implements policies between Taipei and Hong Kong and Macau. China’s ruling Communist Party considers Hong Kong and Macau to be “special administrative regions (SARs) of China.” The SAR label ostensibly grants a region a special degree of autonomy from the Chinese Communist Party in terms of its governing and economic systems.
Beijing effectively stripped Hong Kong of its traditional semi-autonomy last summer by imposing sweeping new legislation known as the “national security law” on the city. The law created four new crimes: secession, subversion, terrorism, and collusion with foreign forces.
“For the four offences, ‘serious’ cases will generally attract penalties of at least 10 years and up to life imprisonment [sic]. Regular cases will attract penalties of a minimum of three years behind bars and a maximum of 10 years,” the Hong Kong Free Press reported July 1, 2020, one day after the national security law went into effect.
The Chinese Communist Party’s rubber-stamp legislature passed the national security law in an effort to extinguish Hong Kong’s powerful pro-democracy protest movement, which had swept the city for 12 months prior to the legislation’s passing. Hong Kong’s government has since arrested the pro-democracy movement’s main leaders and charged them with various criminal offenses established by the national security law.