Taipei, June 21 (CNA) Taiwan's representative office in Hong Kong will continue to operate even though most Taiwanese posted at the office have been forced home due to visa issues, the chief of Taiwan's top agency handling relations with China said Monday.
In a virtual press conference, Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) chief Chiu Tai-san said the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) in Hong Kong has only one Taiwanese officer left but it will continue to serve the public.
The office still has local staff, but Chiu did not say how many people are employed there at present.
TECO-Hong Kong, administered by the MAC, represents Taiwan's interests in the Chinese special administrative region and would normally have 19 Taiwanese staffers under normal circumstances.
Chiu's statement came after seven Taiwanese officials were forced to return home on Sunday due to the refusal of Hong Kong authorities to extend their visas, bringing the total number of Taiwanese officials forced home with the same reason to 11 since 2020.
The Hong Kong government began to ask Taiwanese staffers to sign an affidavit recognizing Beijing's "One China" principle in July 2018 as a precondition for a visa, Chiu said, and Taiwan will not accept that political condition.
In terms of the services the office will continue to provide, Chiu said the location and telephone numbers of TECO-Hong Kong will remain unchanged, and it will continue to provide consular-related services, such as issuing passports and visas and authenticating documents.
Applications by Hong Kong residents for visitor entry permits will now be processed online, while applications for residency in Taiwan will still be handled at the TECO-Hong Kong office, he said.
Mainland Chinese will have to apply for entry to Taiwan online, while interviews related to travel for reuniting with family or getting married will be done at the airport in Taiwan upon arrival instead of at TECO-Hong Kong, he said.
Other services such as emergency assistance to nationals and trade promotion will also continue, he said.
For educational exchanges, a website will be established to allow Hong Kong students apply to study in Taiwan, and the Ministry of Education will set up hotlines to provide consultations for Taiwanese students in Hong Kong, he added.
The Hong Kong office is not the only one losing Taiwanese staff. The same situation is playing out in Macao, where TECO-Macao has only five Taiwanese left.
According to Chiu, the visa of TECO-Macao's acting head is expiring on June 27, while the remaining staffers' visas will all expire before November.
Even so, Chiu said the MAC has no plan to close the offices in the two special administrative regions for the time being.
"Maintaining our offices in Hong Kong and Macao is still mutually beneficial. Unless there are developments that seriously hinder the operation of these offices, we do not have a plan to close them," he said.