Cash-strapped Hungary plans to shut down Hong Kong consulate

PUBLISHED : Monday, 17 August, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 17 August, 2009, 12:00am

Hungary is closing its consulate in Hong Kong to save money amid the global financial crisis.

Its consul general, Adam Tertak, and consul, Janos Chalupa, returned home last month. Only vice-consul Bela Nemeth and some local staff remain at the Wan Chai office, which will close on August 31 after 10 years of operation.

While Hongkongers are granted visa-free access to Hungary for up to 90 days, people who need a visa should now contact the consulate in Shanghai or the embassy in Beijing.

The Hong Kong office is one of eight Hungarian consulates and four embassies around the world to close as a measure to cut government spending.

The doomed embassies are in Malaysia, Luxembourg, Chile and Venezuela, while the other consulates are in Sydney, Toronto, Chicago, Dusseldorf, Lyon, Cracow and Sao Paolo.

A spokeswoman for the Hong Kong government said it had been informed of the move.

'We treasure trade relations with Hungary, which have been growing at an average of 11 per cent in the past five years,' she said.

'We believe the decision will not affect the growing bilateral trade ties.'

The former communist country was the first to set up a full consulate in Hong Kong after the handover.

At that time, the first consul-in-charge, Laszlo Vizi, said it aimed to promote the republic as a hub of commercial activity in central Europe for Hong Kong businesses.

Hungary is now the city's largest export market in Central and Eastern Europe, with total trade reaching US$1.33 billion last year, according to the Trade Development Council.

It fell to US$421 million in the first half of this year.

There are about 80 Hungarians in Hong Kong.

The closure will bring the number of consulates in Hong Kong to 116, along with five officially recognised bodies.