Official Hong Kong HQ in Taiwan is given go-ahead
Hong Kong is to open an official representative headquarters in Taiwan while the existing Taiwanese agencies here will be revamped and granted official status in what is seen as a milestone to Hong Kong-Taiwan relations.
After eight months of formal discussion with Taipei, the Hong Kong government announced yesterday that a Hong Kong Economic, Trade and Cultural Office will be set up in Taiwan this year.
Its duties will include handling visa applications for Taiwanese visitors and maintaining direct contact with Taiwan authorities, in addition to promoting trade and investment.
'The [Taiwan] office will also provide assistance to Hong Kong residents in Taiwan ... and assist in handling matters relating to entry applications from Taiwan when necessary,' a government spokesman said.
'Staff of the office will liaise with relevant authorities in Taiwan when necessary to discuss and study issues of mutual concern, with a view to further promoting exchanges between the two places.'
Under reciprocal arrangements agreed by both governments, Chung Hwa Travel Service - the de facto Taiwan embassy here - will be upgraded to an official agency, operating under a new name, the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office.
Kwang Hwa Information and Culture Centre - another quasi-official Taiwanese government agency - will also be restructured as a press unit under the new office, which will take up the new role from Friday next week. The names of Taiwanese government organisations in Hong Kong have long been a sensitive issue from the perspective of Beijing, which has regarded the use of the name 'Taiwan' or 'Republic of China' as unacceptable.
Similar arrangements are being made to Taiwan's de facto embassy in Macau. The Taipei Economic and Cultural Centre in Macau will be renamed the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office. Macau will also open a representative office in Taiwan.
'The renaming and establishment of representative offices sets a new milestone with Hong Kong and Macau, reflecting closer co-operation and more positive development in our relations in the future,' Executive Yuan Mainland Affairs Council minister Lai Shin-yuan said.
After the renaming, Lai said staff at the new office would perform functions and enjoy special privileges similar to those for foreign service personnel.
They would be allowed to enter restricted zones at the airport and other checkpoints to receive officials or other VIPs from Taiwan.
Hong Kong-based China watcher Johnny Lau Yui-siu welcomed the move and said the city could make use of the new channel to boost its role in cross-strait affairs.
'The Hong Kong government can make use of the new office in Taiwan to establish informal ties with the Democratic Progressive Party,' said Lau. The DPP is a major opposition and pro-independence political party in Taiwan.