Washington, June 21 (CNA) The United States will stand by Taiwan as it faces intimidation from China, State Department spokesman Ned Price said Monday, after Taiwanese staffers at the country's representative office in Hong Kong were forced to return home due to visa issues.
The spokesman was asked at a press briefing to comment on reports that seven Taiwanese employees at the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) in Hong Kong had to return home Sunday after failing to obtain visa extensions from the Hong Kong government.
"Beijing has continued its efforts to intimidate the people on Taiwan," Price responded, adding: "We will stand by Taiwan in the face of such intimidations."
Describing the island as a critical economic and security partner, Price said the U.S. is committed to deepening ties with Taiwan and that its support for the island is "rock solid."
TECO-Hong Kong, administered by Taiwan's Cabinet-level Mainland Affairs Council (MAC), is now operating with one Taiwanese employee and other locally hired staff, according to the agency that handles relations with China.
The MAC has accused the Hong Kong government of asking Taiwanese staffers at TECO-Hong Kong to sign a document supporting Beijing's "one China" principle, which says Taiwan is a part of China, as a precondition for visa extensions.
The MAC said Taiwan will not accept the "unreasonable political pressure," which it said has been imposed by both Hong Kong and Macao authorities in recent years.
It remains unclear whether the requests by the two special administrative regions were ordered by Beijing, which has ramped up its pressure on Taiwan since President Tsai Ing-wen of the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party took office in 2016.
Meanwhile, the Hong Kong and Macao representative offices in Taipei have been closed since May 18 and June 19, respectively.
The Hong Kong government has laid the blame on Taiwan, accusing it of having "grossly interfered in Hong Kong's affairs" by aiding the city's anti-government protesters in relocating to Taiwan to avoid potential prosecution.
Similarly, the Macao authorities attributed the decision to Taiwan's refusal to grant credentials that would allow their employees to continue working at the Macao representative office in Taipei and new staff to be posted there.
The MAC responded that the move was meant to counter the precondition imposed by Macao on Taiwanese staffers at its representative office in the city.