Two months after seizing nine Singaporean armored troop carriers that were returning from military drills in Taiwan, Hong Kong is finally starting to open up about the incident, claiming that Beijing had no role in the seizure and the Singaporean government was never a target for investigation.
On Tuesday, Hong Kong finally announced that it would return the SAF Terrex Infantry Carrier Vehicles to Singapore ending a two-month long diplomatic saga that saw relations between Beijing and the Lion City hit a new low.
The following day, Hong Kong Customs chief Tang Yun-kwong helped to shed some light on the mysterious incident. According to South China Morning Post, when asked if Hong Kong Customs had to report to Beijing on the investigation, Tang replied, “No, we are a Hong Kong law enforcement agency. The authority of the Hong Kong Customs and Excise Department is based on Hong Kong law. No other institutions have been involved.”
“In the investigation process, we did not detect any role of the Singapore government in the possible breach of the licensing requirement,” Tang continued. “So the Singapore government from the very beginning has not been the subject of investigation.”
Instead, the Hong Kong Customs claims that has been investigating APL, the shipping company that was transporting the vehicles from Taiwan to Singapore via Hong Kong for a suspected breach of Hong Kong shipping law. A source told SCMP that the company is likely to face criminal prosecution over the case.
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. Before arriving in Hong Kong, the cargo ship had docked in Xiamen on the mainland.
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.
Yesterday, China Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said that the incident had been handled by the Hong Kong government in accordance with the law, while adding that China hopes “the government of Singapore will faithfully adhere to the one-China principle.”
Meanwhile, Singapore Defense Minister Ng En Hen hailed Hong Kong for its decision to return the vehicles, calling it “a positive outcome” to the diplomatic crisis. Ng added that it will take about a week for the Terrexes to travel back to Singapore once they are released back to the shipping line.
Not wanting to risk anything, the shipment will take a direct route between the two cities.
[Images via Apple Daily]
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