Lu Chang-shui, the newly appointed head of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Hong Kong (TECOHK), was supposed to arrive in the city and assume office on Aug. 1. But up to now, he is still unable to take up his new job as he is still waiting for the SAR government to approve his work visa application.
And because of that, the TECOHK, a civilian-level organization that is serving as Taiwan’s de facto consulate in the city, has remained leaderless since the beginning of August.
The delayed visa issuance to Lu has drawn the attention of the Democratic Party, whose lawmaker, Lam Cheuk-ting, has written to Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor urging her to instruct the Immigration Department to grant Lu his work visa as soon as possible.
There is growing speculation that the delay is related to the currently tense cross-strait relations.
Beijing has been dismayed at Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen’s refusal to acknowledge the 1992 Consensus, under which both Beijing and Taipei agree that there is only one China.
Not only have Beijing-Taipei relations hit rock-bottom ever since Tsai took office in May 2016, but official exchanges between Hong Kong and Taiwan have also almost ground to a halt over the past two years.
While the SAR government reiterated that Lu’s visa application is still being processed, sources believe it would take a while before that “process” is finally completed.
After Chen Shui-bian won Taiwan’s presidential election in 2000, his de facto envoy to Hong Kong, Chang Liang-jen, had to wait as long as 13 months before he was granted his work visa by Hong Kong’s Immigration Department.
Sources said it is likely that Lu may need to wait at least as long as Chang did back in 2001 for his visa approval.
Chang has actually known former Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou for many years, and is perfectly aware of Beijing’s “red line”. Chang once said Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council did not expect China to change its “one-China” policy, when he served as vice chairman of the council.
Yet despite all these, Beijing still didn’t go easy on Chang.
Compared to Chang, Lu is seen as one of those “Taiwanese separatists”, and has once served as sergeant-at-arms for former President Lee Teng-hui, who advocated his infamous “two-state theory” during his term in office.
As such, it remains to be seen whether Lu’s background would delay his visa approval even longer than that of Chang.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Oct 25
Translation by Alan Lee with additional reporting
[Chinese version 中文版]
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