21 March 2019
The Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Hong Kong has been leaderless for some time as the Hong Kong government is yet to issue a work visa for a newly-appointed official. Photo: Bloomberg
The Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Hong Kong has been leaderless for some time as the Hong Kong government is yet to issue a work visa for a newly-appointed official. Photo: Bloomberg

Why is HK delaying work visa for Taiwan agency official?

In June this year, Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council announced that it was going to appoint Lu Chang-shui as the new head of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Hong Kong (TECOHK).

However, Lu, who was expected to take up the duties on Aug. 1, is still unable to move into his new post as he is yet to be granted a work visa by the Hong Kong government.

As a result, TECOHK — which is a civilian-level organization but serves as Taiwan’s de facto consulate — has remained leaderless over the past month.

The delayed visa issuance to Lu has sparked widespread speculation in Taiwan that it could have something to do with the currently tense relations between Beijing and Taipei.

There are indeed fairly substantial grounds for such speculation. In the past, after Chen Shui-bian of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party took over as Taiwan’s president in the year 2000, Chang Liang-jen was made to wait for months before he was granted a visa that would allow him to serve as Taiwan’s unofficial representative to Hong Kong.

Also, the operation of the Hong Kong-Taiwan Economic and Cultural Cooperation and Promotion Council, which was established during the term of office of the former Taiwan president Ma Ying-jeou, has basically ground to an indefinite halt ever since the so-called green camp’s Tsai Ing-wen took office as the new Taiwanese president in May 2016.

Many believe the deteriorating cross-strait relations have led to Lu not being granted a work visa so far for taking up a Hong Kong job.

A Hong Kong government spokesperson said the administration won’t comment on any individual case, but some sources have insisted that the delayed approval of Lu’s visa could just be a technical issue.

Another government source pointed out that it wasn’t until late June that Lu started filing his application for a Hong Kong work visa, hence it is to be expected that the processing would take time.

That said, he seemed to agree with the suggestion that Lu’s failure to get his visa approved quickly might, to some extent, have something to do with the current state of cross-strait relations.

Before being appointed as the new TECOHK chief, Lu had been serving as the head of the agency in Macau.

Given that Beijing was okay with Lu’s appointment as Taipei’s de facto consul to Macau, why is it now having a problem with him taking up similar duty in Hong Kong, some people have wondered.

Incidentally, while Lu is being kept in limbo for his visa, the Taipei branch of the Hong Kong Economic, Trade and Cultural Office (HKETCO) is also awaiting someone to fill the position as chief after its former director Rex Chang left office on July 28.

As of now, the Hong Kong government hasn’t named anybody to succeed Chang in the top post at the HKETCO’s Taipei office.

What the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau has only told the media is that it is currently arranging for somebody else to fill the job.

Some in the government have told us that the Civil Service Bureau (CSB) recently issued an internal memo to identify qualified and eligible Administrative Officers (AOs), with plans to use one such recruit to fill the directorship at HKETCO’s Taipei branch.

Despite that, the post is still vacant.

As the government still hasn’t named anyone for the position, it could mean that no AO is interested in applying for the job or the CSB simply couldn’t find any qualified candidate.

It is pretty rare that both the positions of Hong Kong and Taiwan representatives to each other’s side remain vacant simultaneously. We can only wait and watch how this will play out in the coming weeks and months.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Sept 3

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Columnist of Hong Kong Economic Journal.

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