HONG KONG — Hong Kong’s Customs chief yesterday denied suggestions that Beijing was involved in the investigation into nine armoured personnel carriers belonging to Singapore that were seized in the Chinese-controlled territory.
Commissioner Roy Tang said his department was acting only under Hong Kong law when it impounded the nine SAF Terrex infantry carriers and other equipment.
“Hong Kong Customs is only authorised to enforce the Hong Kong law. We have no role to play in any enforcement or work other than laws applicable to Hong Kong, so there’s no such implication,’’ Mr Tang said when asked whether Beijing had any role in the case and whether there were any political considerations in returning the vehicles.
“We are a Hong Kong law enforcement agency,’’ he added, making the points repeatedly during a news briefing. “The central government is, of course, aware of the issue.”
He spoke a day after the Hong Kong government said the vehicles would be returned to Singapore following an investigation into a suspected violation of rules governing the shipment of “strategic commodities’’.
The vehicles were being sent back home via Hong Kong after military training exercises in Taiwan when they were seized in November.
Mr Tang said authorities are weighing a criminal prosecution, but he was not in a position to divulge the parties under scrutiny, nor any charges.
Details would be made public in court, if it came to that, he said.
But he ruled out targeting Singapore because its government was not found to be involved in any breach of shipping rules.
[So, Beijing was not involved. SG Govt is not under investigation. All faces saved! (Except for HK, and APL. But No one believes HK acted independently, and "charges" against APL has been vague, and even now it is only an "investigation" into suspected violation of rules, and criminal prosecution is only being "weighed". ]
“The Singaporean Government, from the very beginning, has not been the subject of investigation,’’ he said. “We did not identify any information which points to the possibility of the Singapore Government being involved in the breach of the licensing conditions.”
He added that the commercial shipper APL could move the armoured personnel carriers after all relevant paperwork had been completed.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying said Hong Kong handled the case “in accordance with the law’’.
“The Chinese government has consistently opposed official exchanges in any form, including military interactions and co-operation, between Taiwan and countries having relationships with China,’’ she said. “China has made representations with Singapore about this and hopes the Singapore Government earnestly and scrupulously abides by the One China principle,” she added, reiterating comments that the Chinese side had made on the issue earlier.
Hong Kong is a specially administered Chinese region that has considerable autonomy and retains a separate legal system from the mainland under the “one country, two systems’’ principle.
Singapore and Taiwan have a longstanding military relationship that began in the 1970s and involves Taiwan being used as a training ground by Singapore troops.
Beijing deems Taiwan a wayward province that is part of China, to be taken back by force if necessary. AGENCIES
[China is of course required to "remind" SG about the "One China" principle, and that they frown on any dealings with Taiwan. They HAVE TO, as explained in the linked blog post:
Thanks to behind-the-scenes statecraft from all sides, a semblance of implicit understanding has been achieved for years. As a result of this balance, SAF activities in Taiwan became an open secret that is watched closely, yet tolerated so long as no one decided to exploit the matter...
Now insert the matter of a customs inspection, during which officials simply had to act as they knew FactWire was watching.
Chinese Foreign Ministry Mr Geng Shuang, said:“All ships that enter Hong Kong should follow the laws of the Special Administrative Region. We oppose countries that have diplomatic relations with us to have any form of official exchanges with Taiwan, including defence cooperation.”
Yes, this sounds harsh and is in all likelihood directed at Singapore. But what more do you expect China to say when asked pointblank for a response to an issue which three parties danced around delicately for decades?All China is doing is "hoping" that SGS govt abides by the One China principle. No threats. No "or else", just face saving noises.
Why did the Chinese (the real actors in this "crisis") initiated this action if at the end of it, they just want to release and return the Terrex and save face? One theory is that it is a mistake by a clueless low-level flunkey (with ambitions).
Who tipped off the authorities?China knows about our training in Taiwan. Being the suspicious communist party they would have monitored our training and movements. Their intelligence service would have known for years that we send our assets via commercial carriers. If their spies were any good, they would have had an agent on the ships carrying our assets and analysed those assets for military secrets many many times. Except that there were no secrets. So China would have been aware of the Terrex transiting through HK. They would pretend not to know that they are there, and life would just go on. Except a low level flunkey thought he had a scoop and acted on it. And there were no one high enough to stop him.]
We don't know, but it could have been a) a Pro-China Taiwanese who knew or found out about the shipment. Might even have been a staff of the shipping company or somehow involved in the shipping, or b) a low-level Chinese (as in PRC) security or law enforcement agent (or agents, probably at Xiamen).
Why "low level"?
Simple. SG has been having military training in Taiwan. This is NOT a secret to China. China is aware of SG's training and defence cooperation with Taiwan, but has maintained a dignified silence all these decades. The problem arises when some low level agent who does not understand the niceties of international relationships (like, Trump), and the need for "strategic ambiguity" thinks he has a scoop and tells another low level flunkey with just enough authority to seize the ICVs.