With the government declining to explain why it decided to reject a British journalist’s application for renewal of his work visa, some pan-democrats are considering using their power to summon Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and other top officials to the Legislative Council to get some answers, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
Victor Mallet, Financial Times’ Asia news editor and first vice-president of Hong Kong’s Foreign Correspondents’ Club (FCC), is now unable to work in the city since the Immigration Department refused to grant an extension of his work visa last Friday. He was instead issued on Monday a tourist visa that is valid for only seven days.
The rejection is widely seen as retribution after Mallet invited a Hong Kong independence activist to speak at a FCC event in August in defiance of a government warning.
Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the US Consulate General in Hong Kong, and the European Union Office to Hong Kong and Macao said they were hoping that an explanation would be given as they voiced concern that the freedom of the press and of speech enjoyed by Hong Kong people could be impaired by such an incident.
However, the government insisted that no reasons are normally given for visa rejections.
But such a response was not enough for pan-democrats, and they now plan to ask Lam and other officials to testify at the Legislative Council about the incident.
They said the government’s refusal to renew Mallet’s visa has tarnished the city’s international reputation and they want answers from Lam, Secretary for Security John Lee Ka-chiu, and Immigration Director Erick Tsang Kwok-wai, RTHK reported.
Lawmaker Claudia Mo Man-ching, convener of the pan-democrats’ meeting group of lawmakers, is set to file a motion invoking Article 73 of the Basic Law to request the three officials to attend a Legco meeting on Oct. 24 as well as provide documents and evidence regarding the decision to deny Mallet’s application for renewal of his work visa.
Charles Mok Nai-kwong, a pro-democracy lawmaker representing the information technology functional constituency and a member of the Professionals Guild, said what happened to Mallet should not be called an isolated case as quite a number of foreigners in Hong Kong’s commercial circle have already started to worry that their life could be affected.
Civic Party lawmaker Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu said since members of the pro-Beijing camp is linking the visa rejection to Mallet’s role in inviting pro-independence activist Andy Chan Ho-tin to speak at the FCC, he said he was wondering if the administration has the guts to clarify its stance.
Meanwhile, Starry Lee Wai-king, chairperson of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, said she totally supports the Immigration Department’s decision not to offer any explanation for its visa denial as it is a common international practice.
Calling the democrats’ motion absurd, Lee stressed that her party will resolutely oppose it.
On Wednesday morning, within seconds of Lam entering the Legco chamber for her second policy address, four pro-democracy lawmakers were removed by security guards, while eights others walked out, RTHK reported.
Mo, Raymond Chan Chi-Chuen, Au Nok-hin and Eddie Chu Hoi-dick were shouting and waving banners, among other things. The four of them were taken out of the chamber by security guards called by Legco president Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen.
Eight other pro-democracy lawmakers walked out on their own accord before the chief executive was able to start her speech several minutes late, according to RTHK.
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