The SAR government’s decision not to renew the working visa of British journalist Victor Mallet, who is also first vice-president of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club (FCC), has raised concerns in the West about the state of free press and free speech in Hong Kong.
Even some members of the pro-establishment camp found the way the authorities treated Mallet pretty heavy-handed, and believed his visa was denied by the administration to demonstrate to Beijing its resolve in upholding national security.
Both the SAR government and mainland officials have stressed that the approval or rejection of visa applications rests entirely with the Immigration Department, but pro-establishment observers believe the administration would never have made such a controversial decision without receiving Beijing’s green light.
Government sources said after having evaluated the situation, they are confident that the incident, like other political controversies in the past, would only cause a brief ripple and soon die down.
The same sources said the government had already expected a strong backlash both at home and abroad even before making the decision, and therefore was not surprised at all by the uproar.
However, a seasoned member of the pro-establishment camp has told us that he is actually far less optimistic about the political repercussions of the saga.
He noted that Sino-US relations have become increasingly complicated in recent months with Hong Kong finding itself in a delicate and awkward position.
As such, Mallet’s “deportation” would certainly provoke a media hype in the West.
Meanwhile, Bruce Lui Ping-kuen, convenor of the Hong Kong Independent Commentators Association, revealed that some mainland experts on Hong Kong and Macau affairs are now studying the feasibility of excluding Hong Kong independence rhetoric from the jurisdiction of laws that guarantee freedom of expression and assembly in the territory through the interpretation of the Basic Law by the National People’s Congress Standing Committee.
A pro-establishment figure said the idea was only brought up by some mainland academics as a suggestion.
However, as far as he understands, the suggestion has yet to make it to the discussion agenda of the central authorities.
Some members of the pro-Beijing camp also said they had never heard of the suggestion. Nor did they think criminalizing separatist rhetoric in Hong Kong is feasible because it will only provoke a fierce backlash in society.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Oct 9
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
– Contact us at [email protected]