Se­cu­rity chief: Bar­ring Mal­let ‘noth­ing to do with press free­dom’

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By HE SHUSI in Hong Kong hes­husi@chi­nadai­lyhk.com

The Hong Kong Spe­cial Ad­min­is­tra­tive Re­gion has vig­or­ously de­fended its de­ci­sion to bar British jour­nal­ist Vic­tor Mal­let from en­ter­ing the city, say­ing it “has noth­ing to do with free­dom of ex­pres­sion or free­dom of the press”.

Sec­re­tary for Se­cu­rity John Lee Ka-chiu stressed on Fri­day the SAR gov­ern­ment has all along han­dled in­di­vid­ual cases in ac­cor­dance with the law and im­mi­gra­tion poli­cies.

He made the re­marks af­ter Mal­let — the Asia news ed­i­tor of the Fi­nan­cial Times and vice-pres­i­dent of the Hong Kong For­eign Cor­re­spon­dents’ Club — was de­nied en­try to Hong Kong as a vis­i­tor on Thurs­day evening af­ter be­ing ques­tioned for sev­eral hours by im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cers.

Lee said the gov­ern­ment will not dis­close the de­tails of in­di­vid­ual cases in pub­lic, em­pha­siz­ing that the prac­tice is not dif­fer­ent from that of im­mi­gra­tion au­thor­i­ties of other gov­ern­ments.

“First of all, there’s data pri­vacy con­sid­er­a­tion, and also full dis­clo­sure of de­tails may prej­u­dice the im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy as a whole,” he said.

The se­cu­rity chief noted that more than 60 mil­lion peo­ple en­ter Hong Kong each year, and it’s nor­mal for some to be re­fused en­try.

It was the sec­ond time Mal­let had been re­fused en­try to the SAR. He left the city last month af­ter his work visa was with­drawn on the heels of his host­ing a talk at the FCC in Au­gust by pro-in­de­pen­dence ac­tivist Andy Chan Ho-tin, then con­vener of the re­cently banned Hong Kong Na­tional Party.

The Demo­cratic Al­liance for the Bet­ter­ment and Progress of Hong Kong — the city’s largest po­lit­i­cal party — backed the de­ci­sion to bar Mal­let.

In a state­ment, the DAB said it’s le­git­i­mate for the Im­mi­gra­tion De­part­ment to deny Mal­let en­try, say­ing the de­part­ment has the power to de­cide whether or not to ap­prove the en­try of in­di­vid­u­als af­ter hav­ing care­fully re­viewed each case.

Leg­is­la­tor and for­mer sec­re­tary for se­cu­rity Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee said it’s le­git­i­mate for the de­part­ment to re­ject any­one with links to sep­a­ratists from en­ter­ing the city.

She be­lieved that Mal­let was try­ing to test the Hong Kong au­thor­i­ties with his in­tended visit.

“I be­lieve he wanted to test the Hong Kong gov­ern­ment’s bot­tom line on whether he’s now an un­wel­come per­son,” said Ip.

The FCC and the op­po­si­tion law­mak­ers ex­pressed dis­plea­sure, say­ing they were “shocked” and “baf­fled” by the de­ci­sion to bar Mal­let.

They said the move un­der­mined Hong Kong’s press free­dom and sought an ex­pla­na­tion from the SAR gov­ern­ment.

Ac­cord­ing to the Fi­nan­cial Times, Mal­let was re­turn­ing to Hong Kong to fi­nal­ize per­sonal mat­ters af­ter hav­ing had to move over­seas at short no­tice last month.

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