Macau Shuts Down Representative Office in Democratic Taiwan Amid Souring Ties

The move comes weeks after Hong Kong closed its office and accused Taipei of providing aid to 'violent protesters' in the wake of the 2019 protest movement.
2021-06-16
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Macau Shuts Down Representative Office in Democratic Taiwan Amid Souring Ties The Macau Economic and Cutural Office in Taiwan is shown in a file photo.
Macau Economic and Cultural Office

The formerly Portuguese-run city of Macau, which has been under ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) control since 1999, is shutting down its representative office in democratic Taiwan, the city government said on Wednesday.

The Macau Economic and Cultural Office in Taiwan will suspend operations starting June 19, the Macau Special Administrative Region government said in a statement.

"A 24-hour telephone hotline ... set up by the Macao Government Tourism Office will be - during the period of operation suspension - addressing general enquires, and providing other services and any assistance requested by Macau residents that are in Taiwan," it said.

"The telephone hotline will also provide people in Taiwan with information about Macau," it said.

The suspension will be for an indefinite time, with no reason given for the decision.

The move comes weeks after Hong Kong shut down its representative office in Taipei, responding to the Taiwan government's setting up of an office to process applications for political asylum for Hong Kong residents fleeing a broadening crackdown on dissent and political opposition under a national security law imposed by Beijing from July 1, 2020.

That office provides a one-stop-shop service to Hongkongers wanting to study, do business, invest, or seek asylum in the country, as part of a humanitarian assistance project Taiwan offered to Hong Kong people in the wake of mass arrests during and since the 2019 protest movement against the rolling back of democratic freedoms in the city.

Hong Kong's government has accused the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in Taiwan of "offering assistance to violent protesters and people who tried to shatter Hong Kong's prosperity and stability."

Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) said the closure of Macau's representative office had been a unilateral decision.

"The Macau representative office was set up under a mutual agreement in 2011," MAC spokesman Chiu Chui-cheng told reporters.

"We are very sorry that the Macau government has unilaterally arrived at this decision," Chiu said.

"As for the continued operation of our office in Macau, our staff will still stick to their posts and try their best to provide services to the people of Taiwan and Macau to look after the rights and well-being of those people."

'Coming from the top'

Exiled Hongkonger Lam Wing-kei, who runs the Causeway Bay bookstore in Taiwan, said the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is worried that Taiwan, which has never been ruled by the CCP, will become a base for the former Hong Kong opposition movement, attracting others who share their views to live and settle there.

Lam said he fully expects the CCP to minimize or terminate the operations of Taiwan's representative offices in Hong Kong and Macau. Authorities in Hong Kong have already withheld visas for Taiwanese staff, who have been unable to take up their posts for several months.

"This is clearly coming from the top. Will they shut down Taiwan's offices in Hong Kong and Macau? I think they may do this gradually," Lam said. "That is the next thing they will deal with."

He said ties were further strained by fears that the CCP will use residents of Hong Kong or Taiwan to infiltrate its political life.

"Taiwan announced a clause in its immigration rules a few days ago which means it now asks applicants if they have ever worked in government or taking part in CCP-related activities, and whether or not they have ever taken an oath of allegiance [to the CCP or the Hong Kong and Macau governments]," Lam said.

Cheng An-kuo, who was Taiwan's first representative to Hong Kong after the 1997 handover, agreed, but said it was the wrong direction to be going in.

"I think this will have a negative effect on cross-straits relations and on the future direction taken by the current Taiwan government," Cheng told RFA. "From Beijing's perspective, it would be better if there were more ties between Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, not less."

Reported by Chung Kuang-cheng for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by Hwang Chun-mei for the Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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