Nine armored troop carriers seized by Hong Kong on the way back to Singapore
The China Post news staff and agencies January 27, 2017, 2:11 pm TWN
SINGAPORE -- Nine Singapore armored troop carriers impounded by Hong Kong while in transit from military exercises in Taiwan are on their way back home, the city-state's defence minister said Friday.
The release of the Terrex vehicles closes the curtain on a diplomatic row that also involved China, which has sovereignty over Hong Kong and considers Taiwan a renegade island awaiting reunification.
"Terrexes left Hong Kong port this morning at 0415hrs. Next stop, home," Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said in a Facebook post.
Ng had said on Wednesday that the journey would take a week.
Hong Kong customs authorities had impounded the vehicles in November while they were being shipped home following exercises in Taiwan, where land-starved Singapore has for decades trained its troops.
Following the seizure, China lodged a diplomatic protest to Singapore over its military cooperation with Taiwan.
Ties between China and Singapore were already strained over the city-state's perceived support for Southeast Asian nations disputing Beijing's extensive territorial claims in the South China Sea.
Hong Kong is semi-autonomous after being handed back by Britain to China in 1997. But Beijing controls foreign affairs issues and there are increasing fears over its interference in other matters.
But Hong Kong's customs chief on Wednesday denied suggestions that Beijing was involved in the investigation into nine armored 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 carriers and other equipment.
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.
Experts say the dispute could indicate China's unhappiness with Singapore's longstanding practice of holding military training with Taiwan, which Beijing considers a part of China.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying also said Hong Kong handled the case "in accordance with the law."
"The Chinese government has consistently opposed official exchanges in any forms, including military interactions and co-operations, between Taiwan and countries having relationships with China," she said, urging Singapore to abide by the "one China" policy.
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