Mal­let’s visa de­nied for dis­re­spect­ing law: Tong

Se­nior coun­sel says for­eign­ers in HK must also re­spect Ba­sic Law, lo­cal laws

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - HONG KONG - By JOSEPH LI in Hong Kong joseph@chi­nadai­lyhk.com

Fi­nan­cial Times jour­nal­ist Vic­tor Mal­let’s work visa might have been de­nied be­cause of a lack of re­spect for the Ba­sic Law, Ex­ec­u­tive Coun­cilor Ronny Tong Ka-wah said.

The Hong Kong Spe­cial Ad­min­is­tra­tive Re­gion Govern­ment re­jected the FT’s ap­pli­ca­tion to re­new Mal­let’s work per­mit last week.

Tong, who is also a se­nior coun­sel, told China Daily in an ex­clu­sive in­ter­view that he be­lieves there is no other rea­son for this than the in­vi­ta­tion of pro-in­de­pen­dence ac­tivist Andy Chan Ho-tin to talk at the For­eign Cor­re­spon­dents’ Club last month. The in­vi­ta­tion was given by Mal­let in Au­gust in his ca­pac­ity as a vice-pres­i­dent of the club.

“Mal­let was set­ting a stage for some­one to spread sep­a­ratism. It was more than just news re­port­ing. If he meant to cover news, he could have in­ter­viewed the ac­tivist him­self in his news­pa­per’s of­fice,” Tong said.

“When a for­eigner works in Hong Kong, he has to obey lo­cal laws in­clud­ing the Ba­sic Law,” the se­nior coun­sel ar­gued.

“He did not re­spect the Ba­sic Law which stip­u­lates Hong Kong is an in­alien­able part of China. Dis­re­spect of the Ba­sic Law car­ries no crim­i­nal li­a­bil­ity but this does not mean there will be no other con­se­quences,” Tong stressed.

He also re­jected com­men­taries ar­gu­ing the govern­ment had un­der­mined free­dom of the press in the city.

“The HKSAR Govern­ment has not in­fringed free­dom of press. Many re­porters have in­ter­viewed that ac­tivist be­fore; did you see any of the in­ter­views cen­sored? Was the broad­cast of the talk at FCC banned?”

The non-ex­ten­sion of visa had noth­ing at all to do with free­dom of speech, Tong con­tended. He con­demned the “pan-democrats” for “claim­ing they don’t sup­port Hong Kong in­de­pen­dence, yet they twist this is­sue into a case of vi­o­la­tion of free­dom of speech”.

A com­mon prac­tice

In Tong’s opin­ion, many other for­eign ju­ris­dic­tions have sim­i­lar im­mi­gra­tion rules. He also was skep­ti­cal of com­ments by Bri­tish For­eign Sec­re­tary Jeremy Hunt — who said Mal­let’s visa de­nial was “po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated”.

He ex­plained that usu­ally Bri­tish pass­port hold­ers could stay in Hong Kong for six months with­out a visa.

“If his work visa is not re­newed, this shows the Hong Kong Im­mi­gra­tion De­part­ment sees him as an ex­tra­or­di­nary per­son whose pres­ence in Hong Kong is deemed un­de­sir­able for po­lit­i­cal and na­tional se­cu­rity rea­sons,” Tong said.

“Hong Kong in­de­pen­dence is the red line that peo­ple should not tread. The red line is al­ways there and it has not moved,” Tong said.

“The Bri­tish for­eign sec­re­tary’s re­mark that there is a ‘po­lit­i­cal rea­son’ be­hind Mal­let’s visa de­nial is rather child­ish,” he said.

The se­nior coun­sel said this sit­u­a­tion had hap­pened many times be­fore, re­call­ing that other non-res­i­dents were not al­lowed to en­ter Hong Kong. He cited for­mer leader of Tai­wan Ma Ying-jeou and deputy chair­man of UK Con­ser­va­tive Party’s hu­man rights com­mit­tee Bene­dict Rogers — among oth­ers.

“The UK has also banned many peo­ple in­clud­ing re­porters from en­ter­ing with­out ex­pla­na­tion. US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump of­ten in­fringes press free­dom by not al­low­ing CNN re­porters to cover news in the White House and de­scribes news un­fa­vor­able to him as ‘fake news’,” he said.

Tong said the Im­mi­gra­tion De­part­ment had the le­gal author­ity not to re­new a per­son’s work visa. It is not obliged to give any ex­pla­na­tions.

Re­port­edly, Mal­let will be trans­ferred to Paris next month. Tong could not rule out that the SAR govern­ment chose not to ex­tend his work visa be­cause he is deemed “an un­wel­come per­son”.

In his view, non-re­newal of visa is a le­nient mea­sure. “He could be de­nied en­try or de­ported but the Im­mi­gra­tion De­part­ment needs to pro­vide stronger facts in those cir­cum­stances,” he ar­gued.

Tong said im­mi­gra­tion con­trol is­sues were the in­ter­nal af­fairs of the HKSAR which the cen­tral govern­ment does not in­ter­fere with. An ad­verse re­sponse from for­eign coun­tries was ex­pected. But he ques­tioned whether this is much help be­cause Bei­jing was very wary of ex­ter­nal forces med­dling in Hong Kong af­fairs.

“The cen­tral govern­ment au­thor­i­ties ab­so­lutely sup­port the HKSAR Govern­ment’s de­ci­sion not to re­new Mal­let’s work visa,” he added.

ROY LIU / CHINA DAILY

Ronny Tong Ka-wah, a se­nior coun­sel and mem­ber of the Ex­ec­u­tive Coun­cil, says the spe­cial ad­min­is­tra­tive re­gion govern­ment has not in­fringed free­dom of press when re­fus­ing the work visa for Fi­nan­cial Times jour­nal­ist Vic­tor Mal­let.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from China

© PressReader. All rights reserved.