A British human rights activist who has been a vocal critic of China and an ardent supporter of Hong Kong’s democracy campaigners was barred from entering Hong Kong on Wednesday, prompting an outcry from several political groups and individuals.
Benedict Rogers, deputy chair of the UK Conservatives’ human rights commission, was refused entry after he flew into Hong Kong Wednesday morning on a Thai Airways flight from Bangkok.
Immigration officials at the airport turned him away without giving any explanation, forcing him to travel back to Thailand the same day.
Apple Daily quoted Rogers as saying that he had been mentally prepared for the situation as he had been warned in London that the Chinese Embassy there did not want him to travel to Hong Kong.
Still, he was shocked at how he was turned away, he said.
According to reports, Rogers had wanted to visit the three imprisoned Hong Kong student leaders — Joshua Wong, Alex Chow Yong-kang, and Nathan Law Kwun-chung — but had dropped the idea after finding out that the procedures were too complicated.
However, he went ahead with the trip as he wanted to meet with other pan-democratic political figures. The Chinese Embassy is said to have sent him a message indirectly that he would not be welcome in Hong Kong.
After he landed in the city on Wednesday, Rogers was met with immigration officers and put on a flight back to Bangkok
Rogers said the immigration officer who escorted him to the plane appeared apologetic.
The Guardian quoted the British rights activist as saying that the immigration officer almost had tears in his eyes and said that he was just doing his job.
The show of emotion came after Rogers thanked the officer for treating him well and then posed a question as to whether the “One Country, Two Systems” is dead in Hong Kong, according to the report.
On his way back to the UK via Thailand, Rogers said he was questioned by Thai authorities, who might have been under some pressure from Beijing.
Rogers lived in Hong Kong during 1997 to 2002, and decided to come back to the city to meet his pan-democratic friends.
He had protested against the imprisonment of the three student leaders who were at the forefront of the 2014 Occupy pro-democracy protests, and also openly criticized Britain for ignoring its responsibilities in relation to the Sino-British Joint Declaration on Hong Kong.
Following the news that he was barred from entering the city on Wednesday, the Civic Party released a statement expressing concern about the incident.
Some other political groups, including Demosisto, as well as prominent individuals, including former lawmaker Albert Ho, also raised questions, wondering whether Hong Kong’s immigration department was taking orders from Beijing.
China’s suspected involvement amounts to violation of Hong Kong’s autonomy, critics said.
Former chief secretary Anson Chan urged the British government to make an official protest to the Hong Kong and Chinese governments.
“Is it going to be the norm that anyone who dares speak against the official line will be barred from Hong Kong? It’s increasingly looking that way,” The Guardian quoted Chan as saying.
The Immigration Department refused to comment on the Rogers incident, merely saying that each case is dealt on an individual basis and according to the law.
The department also denied that any of its employees had discussed the “One Country, Two Systems” policy with Rogers.
UK’s Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has called on the Hong Kong government to explain why Rogers was denied entry into the city.
“As a free city with high autonomy and freedom, I find that it is important that the… government explain why a British citizen has been refused entry,” he said.
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