HONGKONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong barred the Asia news editor of the Financial Times from entering the city as a visitor, the newspaper said, after authorities refused to renew his work visa in October, raising questions about the city’s commitment to free speech.
Victor Mallet “attempted to enter Hong Kong on Thursday as a visitor but was turned away at the border after several hours of questioning by immigration officers,” the Financial Times said.
Mallet did not comment further when contacted by Reuters.
Hong Kong’s government said on Friday it does not comment on individual immigration cases.
“In handling each immigration case, the Immigration Department will act in accordance with the laws and policies, and decide whether the entry will be allowed or refused after careful consideration of circumstances of each case,” the government said in an emailed statement. Analysts have cited the FT editor’s case among other examples of Hong Kong officials taking a tough line on perceived critics and dissent in the former British colony.
On Thursday, a prominent Chinese dissident writer, Ma Jian, said on Twitter that he was told by a Hong Kong arts centre that it would no longer host two of his talks as part of the Hong Kong International Literary Festival.
In Mallet’s case, the government declined to renew his work visa last month after a speech he hosted at the Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents’ Club (FCC) by an independence activist was strongly condemned by officials in China and Hong Kong.
Authorities have not said why Mallet’s work visa was not renewed.
The decision shocked many in the city’s international community and reignited a debate about the viability of promised freedoms in Asian financial hub.
China’s Foreign Ministry had urged the FCC to withdraw its invitation to Andy Chan, a founder of the pro-independence Hong Kong National Party, which was formally banned by Hong Kong authorities in September.
The FCC, however, refused to cancel the event saying it defended free speech, while neither endorsing nor supporting the views of its speakers.
Authorities in Beijing and Hong Kong have said the notion of independence violates the principle of “one country, two systems” under which the territory has been governed since Britain handed it back to China in 1997.
The principle promises Hong Kong a high degree of autonomy and freedoms not enjoyed elsewhere in China, rights which are enshrined in a mini-constitution known as the Basic Law.
The human rights situation in Hong Kong received unprecedented scrutiny this week from several foreign governments at a United Nations hearing.
On Thursday, the exiled Chinese author Ma Jian tweeted that the Tai Kwun arts centre had cancelled his events there.
The arts centre, which was set up with government support, gave no immediate comment to Reuters.
Ma said he had been unable to find a Hong Kong publisher for his satirical novel, China Dream, dubbed by Hong Kong’s literary festival organisers as “Ma’s answer to President Xi Jinping’s goal of restored national greatness”.
“I’m a novelist, not an activist, and am attending the Festival to discuss my new novel, China Dream. My ‘politics’ are simple: I believe in free thought and free speech. Without them, life has no meaning,” Ma wrote on Twitter.
Ma is due to arrive in Hong Kong on Friday afternoon.
(Reporting by Farah Master; Editing by James Pomfret and Darren Schuettler)