22 April 2019
Victor Mallet was questioned by immigration officers for several hours at the border before they decided to deny him entry on Thursday. Photo: AFP
Victor Mallet was questioned by immigration officers for several hours at the border before they decided to deny him entry on Thursday. Photo: AFP

HK says no explanation after denying entry to journalist Mallet

The Hong Kong government will not be offering an explanation for its decision to bar British journalist Victor Mallet from entering Hong Kong as a tourist, Secretary for Security John Lee Ka-chiu said on Friday.

Mallet, Asia news editor of the Financial Times, tried to enter the territory as a tourist on Thursday but was refused.

The Financial Times said Mallet was questioned by immigration officers for several hours at the border before they decided to deny him entry.

The Immigration Department had denied Mallet’s application for a renewal of his work visa a month earlier, and had instead given him a tourist visa for seven days to wrap up his affairs in the city.

Asked about the government’s latest move on Mallet, Lee told reporters: “This case has nothing to do with freedom of expression or freedom of the press. The government has said many times that in considering any application for entry, we will be acting in accordance with the law and the prevailing immigration policy to make a decision.

“This is no different from that of immigration authorities of other governments,” the security chief said, adding that the government will not disclose the details of any individual case in public.

Mallet was acting president of the Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents’ Club when the club invited pro-independence activist Andy Chan Ho-tin, convenor of the now-outlawed Hong Kong National Party, to give a speech at a lunchtime event held on its premises on Aug. 14 despite condemnations from Beijing and the SAR government.

The FCC clarified that hosting such events does not mean it endorses or opposes the views of its speakers, “who have included senior officials of the Chinese, Hong Kong and other governments as well as their opponents”.

On Sept. 24, Lee, the security chief,  announced the banning of the Hong Kong National Party on the grounds of “national security, public safety, public order, protection of freedom, and the rights of others” under the Societies Ordinance.

On Oct. 5, or nearly two months after Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said that it was entirely inappropriate for the FCC to invite Chan to give a speech, Mallet’s application to continue working in Hong Kong was denied.

Mallet was given a visitor visa on Oct. 7, but that was not the case anymore when he tried to enter Hong Kong again on Thursday.

British visitors are normally allowed to stay in Hong Kong for up to 180 days without a visa.

‘Disproportionate sanction’

The FT has appealed the government’s decision not to renew Mallet’s work visa, noting that it has not received an explanation for the rejection.

The issue hounded Lam during her five-day visit to Japan last week, with Japanese reporters grilling her about her government’s denial of a work visa for Mallet.

Responding to the reporters’ questions, Lam noted that many overseas media organizations, including Japanese news outlets, continue to use Hong Kong as their regional base, which she said is a very good indication that press freedom is alive and well in the city, RTHK has reported.

The FCC on Thursday sent a letter from former club presidents to Lam, expressing grave concern over the denial of a work visa for Mallet. They said the government’s decision has implications for Hong Kong’s role as an open, global city where the press – including foreign media – can continue to operate freely.

In a statement issued on Friday, the FCC said it was “shocked and baffled” that the government has denied entry to Mallet, noting that since the government refused to extend his work visa in early October, the club “has been asking for a reasonable explanation, to no avail”.

The club is “now reiterating its demand for an immediate explanation for this aggravated and disproportionate sanction that seems completely unfounded”, it said.

“This action places journalists working in Hong Kong in an opaque environment in which fear and self-censorship may replace the freedom and confidence essential to a free society, and guaranteed by the Basic Law,” the club added.

Pro-democracy lawmakers on Friday issued a joint statement expressing “extreme shock and anger” over the latest incident.

They said the government move further curbs press freedom and freedom of expression in the city, and is meant as a precedent for the international community to learn from.

In the statement, the lawmakers said the incident would further harm Hong Kong’s image as an international community.

They asked the chief executive to issue a prompt explanation and apologize for the incident.

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