China cautioned Singapore to be discreet in its words and deeds after Singapore's Defense Minister Ng Eng Hen requested the return of nine Singaporean armored vehicles which have been detained by Hong Kong customs since November 2016.
The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government is handling the issue in accordance with relevant laws and regulations, said spokesperson for China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs Lu Kang at a regular news briefing, in response to the remarks by Ng that the seizure of Singapore's armored vehicles did not comply with international law.
Ng said in parliament on Monday that those vehicles were Singapore's property protected by sovereign immunity, and requested their return from Hong Kong as soon as possible.
The nine Singapore-bound Terrex Infantry Carrier Vehicles of the Singaporean Armed Forces were impounded on November 23, 2016 in Hong Kong's Kwai Chung Container Terminal while en route from Taiwan, where they were reportedly used in military drills.
Hong Kong's Customs and Excise Department said on Monday that it could not provide further information because the case was still under investigation.
The discovery triggered concerns in Beijing over Singapore's compliance with the one-China policy, and its overall policy toward China.
"It is hoped that all countries including Singapore will adhere to the one-China policy which is the prerequisite for the development of relations between China and the rest of the world," Lu noted.
"Second, we hope that Singapore will abide by the laws of Hong Kong SAR in this matter," he added.
Channel News Asia reported that Singapore's Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan told the parliament on Monday that the island state's relations with China and its interactions with both Hong Kong and Taiwan are strictly based on the one-China policy.
Despite the country vehemently opposing the so-called "Taiwan independence" and adopting the one-China policy, Singapore's ambiguous ties with Taiwan remain a thorny issue, which has been brought to fore with the recent confiscation of the military hardware.
China and Singapore established formal diplomatic ties in 1990, and have since enjoyed steady bilateral ties.