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Taipei office in Macau may lose all Taiwanese staff in visa row over ‘one-China’ principle

South China Morning Post logo South China Morning Post 24/09/2022 Lawrence Chung
  • Echoing the situation in Hong Kong last year, Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Macau may lose all Taiwanese staff if they do not sign pledge
  • Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council mulls potential sale of Dr Sun Yat-sen Memorial House in Macau in anticipation of Beijing seizing the property

Taiwan could be left with no officials in charge of its representative office in Macau next month if the self-ruled island continues to reject the "one-China" principle.

Like its representative office in Hong Kong, the island's Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Macau might be left with only local hires if the three remaining officials cannot have their visas renewed, according to a Taiwanese government source.

"There are three officials left at the office in Macau, but until now there is no news of the renewal of their visas from the authorities there," the source said.

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The source said the visas were valid for two years, with the visas of two of the officials expiring "soon" while the third, and last to expire, was due on October 30.

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"If there is no renewal, there would be no more officials in charge of the office by the end of next month," the source said, adding that Macau's authorities might want the officials to sign the so-called one-China pledge before renewing the visas.

"The Macau government is likely to make the demand ahead of China's National Day on October 1," the source said.

But, according to the source, there is no way Taipei will agree, meaning the three must return to Taiwan, leaving the operation of the office in the care of local staff.

Since 2019, Macau has followed in the footsteps of Hong Kong and demanded that officials of Taiwan's representative office sign a declaration pledging support for the one-China principle that Beijing insists on as the political basis for cross-strait rapprochement.

That ultimatum forced all Taiwanese officials in the island's Hong Kong office to return to Taipei in July 2021.

Macau refused to issue a visa to the replacement of former director Chen Hsueh-huai after the island rejected the demand to sign the pledge, leaving the representative office with no new head. In June last year, acting director Chen Chia-hung was forced to return to Taiwan after his visa expired and he too refused to sign the declaration.

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Chiu Chui-cheng, deputy chairman of Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council, said the island took note of relations with Macau as well as exchanges and rights between the people of Hong Kong and Taiwan.

"The council has long followed the terms of the 2011 agreement signed by the two sides in handling matters related to dispatch of officials stationed on each other's side," he said.

He said Taiwan was not likely to accept the demand for a one-China pledge, given that it was never stipulated in the 2011 agreement.

Beijing, which claims sovereignty over Taiwan, has called for self-governed Taiwan to embrace the one-China principle and the "one country, two systems" formula it applied in Hong Kong and Macau - two of its special administrative regions outside the Chinese mainland.

Most countries, including the United States, do not recognise Taiwan as an independent state. Washington, however, opposes any attempt to take the island by force.

Officials of the Mainland Affairs Council, which operates the island's offices in Hong Kong and Macau, said the pledge not only required Taiwanese officials to uphold the one-China principle, but also to commit to not interfering in the internal affairs of the cities or make comments that would embarrass the government and hurt its interests there.

The government source said the Macau government was planning to amend its national security law to tighten control of the city.

Macau security chief Wong Sio Chak said last month the amendments were intended to tackle "complicated and volatile security risks" instigated by "external forces" - a reference to Taiwan and the US, which criticised Hong Kong for cracking down on activists during the summer protests in 2019 and helped those fleeing the city.

In June last year, the Macau government closed its economic and cultural office in Taipei - weeks after Hong Kong did so.

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Like the initial announcement by the Hong Kong office, Macau did not give a reason for the suspension, noting that Macau residents who needed help could resort to a hotline.

The Hong Kong authorities later said the shutdown was mainly because of Taiwan's "gross interference" in internal affairs, including its offer to help "violent protesters".

Hong Kong proposed an extradition bill in 2019 that could potentially allow Hong Kong suspects to be sent for trial on the Chinese mainland. Anger over the potential bill erupted into some of the largest protests in Hong Kong, prompting Beijing to push for the approval and enforcement of a national security law to penalise the protesters.

The government of Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen has been accused by Hong Kong of supporting protesters in the city, including opening an office in 2020 to help Hongkongers who wanted to flee the city for fear of being prosecuted and penalised.

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Meanwhile, the council is mulling the potential sale of Dr Sun Yat-sen Memorial House in Macau in anticipation of Beijing deciding to seize the property once the island's representative office is left with no officials in charge, according to local news media.

But Chiu said the island's government had plans to deal with the issue. "We will do the utmost to ensure our interests there," he said.

The 440 square metre (4,735 square foot) property is valued at NT$140 million (US$4.4 million). It is currently a three-storey museum open to visitors and is owned by the council. It was once home to several members of Sun's family and is the only place in Macau where the island's flag can be displayed in public.

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This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (, the leading news media reporting on China and Asia.

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