Following two months of uncertainty, Hong Kong Customs has agreed to return the nine Singaporean armored troop carriers that were seized while on their back to the Lion City after participating in military drills held in Taiwan last November.
Hong Kong Customs announced that the nine SAF Terrex Infantry Carrier Vehicles will be returned to Singapore at the conclusion of its investigation regarding a suspected breach in the city’s shipping laws governing strategic goods. A source told South China Morning Post that this would happen in the next few days.
“The action by the Hong Kong Customs on November 23 was taken because there was a suspected breach of the Hong Kong law,” Commissioner of Customs and Excise Roy Tang Yun-kwong said in a statement.
APL, the shipping company that was transporting the vehicles from Taiwan to Singapore via Hong Kong, will likely face criminal prosecution over the case, the source told SCMP. Singapore itself is not under investigation.
The announcement looks to finally put an amicable end to a two-month long saga that saw relations between Beijing and Singapore hit a low point.
The nine carriers and equipment were seized by Hong Kong customs off a cargo ship on November 23rd that was sailing from Taiwan to Singapore following military drills held on the island. FactWire reported that Hong Kong customs officials were tipped off about the shipment by their mainland counterparts, while Hong Kong customs has maintained they were just carrying out an ordinary inspection.
For decades, Singapore has carried out annual military training exercises in Taiwan without incident. However, after Hong Kong customs seized the vehicles, China quickly issued its own formal condemnation, lodging a protest against Singapore for its disregard of the “one-China principle.”
Traditionally, Singapore has served as a kind of a bridge between Beijing and Taipei. It was in Singapore that last year’s historic meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou took place. But recently, relations between Singapore and the mainland have been worsening thanks to South China Sea tensions and Singapore turning increasingly to the United States for security aid.
Earlier this month, Singapore Defense Minister Ng En Hen called on Hong Kong to return the nine armored vehicles, stating that the detention of the vehicles violates international law. At the same time, Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong wrote to Hong Kong Chief Executive CY Leung asking for the immediate return of the carriers.
A few weeks later, Lee received his answer. “This is a positive outcome. Prime Minister Lee has replied to Chief Executive Leung to thank him for Hong Kong’s cooperation in resolving this matter,” said Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) in a statement.
In a Facebook post on Tuesday, Dr Ng added: “SAF Terrexes are coming home to Singapore. Looking forward to this happy reunion with all Singaporeans in the Year of the Rooster.”
All’s well that ends well?
[Images via Apple Daily]
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