Liberian consulate forced to close

PUBLISHED : Friday, 10 October, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 10 October, 1997, 12:00am

The West African state of Liberia yesterday became the first country to have its Hong Kong consulate shut down under Chinese rule.

Its honorary consul had been summoned to the Chinese Foreign Ministry Commissioner's Office on Wednesday and told to stop consular activity because of the country's move to recognise Taiwan as well as Beijing.

Businessman Richard Hwang Yiu-hwa, who had acted as Liberia's representative, said last night the closure would be a blow to the war-torn country's attempts to rebuild.

Mr Hwang said: 'The country has just started to become stable. Obviously Hong Kong provides a lot of business opportunities.

'But I can fully understand Beijing's point of view. It's something that we can't do anything about.' Liberia could have attracted Hong Kong interest in its diamond and gold mines and its shipping-registration activities, said Mr Hwang.

The biggest disruption caused by the closure of the consulate, which operated from Mr Hwang's shipping and property business in Central, would be in its endorsement of government documents, he said.

Mr Hwang said he had only issued two visas since taking over as honorary consul in 1995.

'Nobody has wanted to go there because of the civil war,' he said.

China cut diplomatic ties with Liberia last month over President Charles Taylor's decision to send ambassadors to both Beijing and Taipei.

Consulates which closed before July 1 included the Central African Republic, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic and Paraguay.