It’s not a big surprise if government authorities treat with suspicion political journalists from publications known to be critical of Beijing. Entry bans have often been used to keep out pesky foreign reporters, especially during periods deemed sensitive by China.
But then, why would anyone want to bar the staff of a food and travel magazine from entering the border? This is the question that is agitating the minds of people at Hong Kong’s Eat & Travel Weekly, who were refused entry to Macau recently.
On Dec. 18, one day before Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Macau to attend the ceremonies marking the 15th anniversary of the territory’s return to Chinese rule, a photographer from Eat & Travel Weekly was denied permission to enter the gambling enclave.
The purported reason cited by Macau border control authorities was that the person’s name was similar to one on a list of those who were deemed to pose a threat to internal security.
This left the journalist community flummoxed and led some observers to wonder if the aim was to send a message to the publication’s parent company Next Media group, which also publishes Apple Daily, the paper that has been a strong supporter of the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong.
Betty Ma, editor-in-chief of Eat & Travel, has noted that her reporters had no problem entering Macau in the past three months, until the day before the visit of Xi to the city.
The photographer who was rejected entry into Macau was told by custom officers that his name was similar to a jotting on their “list”, according to Apple Daily.
During Xi’s visit, even umbrellas were said to be barred from his presence, and reporters were only allowed to wear raincoats despite drizzly weather. A one-year-old boy bearing the same name as Hong Kong politician Albert Ho was also reportedly barred from entering the enclave.
When the magazine sent seven staffers to Macau again on Dec. 29, one photographer, one editor and two reporters were banned from entering the territory on the grounds that they pose a threat to internal security.
Ma said that another reporter who was travelling with family members was also rejected entry.
We do not understand the motive of the Macau government, as our reporting is only to recommend cuisines in Macau and can help to promote its tourism industry, the editor said.
“I don’t see how we can pose a threat to Macau’s security.”
When the editor who was refused entry on Monday asked custom officers when they can visit Macau and if they can consult anyone to know in advance whether they were eligible to do so, a customs officer is said to have remarked that “nobody knows” and that “there’s no way out”.
The journalists have slammed the Macau government for being totally unreasonable.
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