One month after Hong Kong, Macao announced on Wednesday 16 June the “suspension” of its representation in Taiwan – the Economic and Cultural Office – without giving a reason. On 18 May, the Hong Kong authorities had also “temporarily suspended” the activities of their Economic, Trade and Cultural Office. A little later, a Hong Kong spokesman denounced “Taiwan’s gross interference in Hong Kong’s affairs on various occasions in recent years, which has created irreversible damage. The spokesman pointed to the establishment of an office in Taiwan to assist Hong Kong refugees, following the introduction of the National Security Law in Hong Kong on June 30, 2020.
These two suspensions confirm the deterioration of relations between China and Taiwan. Obviously, Hong Kong and Macau have never recognized Taiwan. Nevertheless, since 2011, these two special administrative regions have had an “office” in Taipei and the island has representation in the two Chinese regions. During the second term of Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou (2012-2016), there was even talk of Taipei opening an office in Beijing and vice versa. But the deal never came to fruition.
Since the 2016 election of Tsai Ing-wen, president of the Democratic Progressive Party in Taiwan, cross-strait relations have only deteriorated. Taiwanese authorities have vigorously condemned the Chinese-imposed National Security Law. While Chinese President Xi Jinping announced in January 2019 that Taiwan should one day be governed on the same principle as Hong Kong – “one country, two systems” – the authorities and the population saw this law as proof that Beijing had no intention of respecting Hong Kong’s uniqueness, or even its own commitments.
Economic and human exchanges
In this tense context, the two offices constituted a – meager – channel of communication between China and Taiwan. While the latter maintains its offices in Macao and Hong Kong, the Hong Kong authorities have not renewed the visas issued to Taiwanese staff for a year: there are only eight of them left in Hong Kong and their visas expire this year, the Taiwanese authorities said in May.