Taiwan rejects HK firm's tower bid, fearing China's influence

An artist's impression of the Taipei Twin Towers, which Hong Kong-listed Nan Hai had successfully bid to build with Malaysian property developer Malton. However, Taiwan's Ministry of Economic Affairs blocked the project on Wednesday.
An artist's impression of the Taipei Twin Towers, which Hong Kong-listed Nan Hai had successfully bid to build with Malaysian property developer Malton. However, Taiwan's Ministry of Economic Affairs blocked the project on Wednesday.PHOTO: MVRDV

Taipei scraps $2.6b deal, citing number of Chinese nationals on Nan Hai's board

TAIPEI • Taiwan has vetoed a NT$60 billion (S$2.6 billion) bid by a Hong Kong-led consortium to build a twin skyscraper in Taipei, citing national security concerns and arguing that the company is too heavily influenced by mainland China.

Hong Kong-listed Nan Hai had successfully bid to build the Taipei Twin Towers along with Malaysian property developer Malton in a deal that was billed as the city's biggest construction project in years.

But on Wednesday, Taiwan's Ministry of Economic Affairs blocked the project, citing Nan Hai's links with China.

"Nan Hai's close ties with China are a grave threat to (Taiwan's) national security if it were allowed to develop," Ms Yang Shu-ling, spokesman for the ministry's Investment Commission, told Agence France-Presse.

The commission noted that half of Nan Hai's management and board of directors are Chinese nationals, adding it was concerned the company could be "influenced by mainland policies".

The planned 76-storey site was particularly sensitive, Ms Yang added, because it was located next to Taipei's main station and metro systems.

"This involves the issue of national security because of its close proximity to greater Taipei's important transportation hub for metro, high-speed rail, railway trains and buses," Ms Yang added.

SENSITIVE MATTER

This involves the issue of national security because of its close proximity to greater Taipei's important transportation hub for metro, high-speed rail, railway trains and buses.

MS YANG SHU-LING, spokesman for Taiwan's Ministry of Economic Affairs' Investment Commission, on the location of the planned site.

Taiwan retains huge business links with China but relations between the two governments have plummeted since the 2016 election of President Tsai Ing-wen, who does not recognise Beijing's "one-China" policy.

 
 

Beijing has since cut off communication with her administration, ramped up military drills and poached some of Taiwan's dwindling allies.

The island has been a self-ruled de facto nation in charge of its own affairs and borders for the past 70 years. But Beijing maintains that Taiwan is part of its territory and has never given up its threat to retake it, by force if necessary.

Ms Tsai is seeking a second term at elections next January and is campaigning on a more Beijing-sceptical ticket than her opponents, who favour much warmer ties with the mainland.

Neither Nan Hai in Hong Kong, nor its Taiwan subsidiary, responded to requests for comment.

But Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je, an independent, warned yesterday that the decision might put off foreign investors.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 28, 2019, with the headline 'Taiwan rejects HK firm's tower bid, fearing China's influence'. Print Edition | Subscribe