Millennium Post - - Front Page -

HONG KONG: The Asia ed­i­tor of the Fi­nan­cial Times has been re­fused en­try to Hong Kong, weeks af­ter he was de­nied a new work visa in what crit­ics call an omi­nous sign of Bei­jing en­croach­ing on the semi-au­tonomous Chi­nese ter­ri­tory's civil lib­er­ties.

The news­pa­per re­ported that Vic­tor Mal­let was turned away at the bor­der on Thurs­day af­ter be­ing ques­tioned for sev­eral hours. He had sought to en­ter as a vis­i­tor.

Mal­let's visa re­jec­tion in Oc­to­ber came shortly af­ter he hosted a talk at the Hong Kong For­eign Cor­re­spon­dents Club by the head of a now-banned po­lit­i­cal party ad­vo­cat­ing the fi­nan­cial hub's in­de­pen­dence from China.

That brought heated crit­i­cism from the ter­ri­tory's proChina elites, some of whom called for the jour­nal­ists' or­gan­i­sa­tion to be kicked out of its club­house in the cen­tral fi­nan­cial dis­trict.

Hong Kong's im­mi­gra­tion au­thor­ity has given no ex­pla­na­tion for his ex­pul­sion and on Fri­day re­sponded with a state­ment say­ing it would "act in ac­cor­dance with the laws and poli­cies and de­cide whether the en­try will be al­lowed or re­fused af­ter care­ful con­sid­er­a­tion of the cir­cum­stances of each case."

In Bei­jing, For­eign Min­istry spokes­woman Hua Chun­y­ing said Hong Kong had the right to de­cide who could en­ter the ter­ri­tory. "As you know, when peo­ple travel around the world, it is nor­mal for ev­ery coun­try to per­mit or re­ject a vis­i­tor's en­try ac­cord­ing to its law gov­ern­ing the ad­min­is­tra­tion of en­try and exit," Hua said at a daily news brief­ing.

In a state­ment is­sued Fri­day, the Hong Kong Jour­nal­ists As­so­ci­a­tion said that in bar­ring Mal­let's en­try, the gov­ern­ment was "se­verely vi­o­lat­ing the free­doms of press and speech, and fur­ther dam­ag­ing the rep­u­ta­tion and sta­tus of Hong Kong as an in­ter­na­tional city," ac­cord­ing to the news­pa­per South China Morn­ing Post.

Pro-democ­racy leg­is­la­tors on the city coun­cil also ex­pressed wor­ries over the in­ci­dent, say­ing the ero­sion of ba­sic

le­gal rights could harm Hong Kong's abil­ity to at­tract for­eign in­vest­ment.

The de­nial of a visa to Mal­let has been widely con­demned by jour­nal­ists, hu­man rights and civic so­ci­ety groups in Hong Kong, who saw it as a sign of China's grow­ing en­croach­ment on free­dom of speech in the city.

Con­cerns have also been raised by the ap­par­ent kid­nap­pings and prose­cu­tions in China of in­de­pen­dent book­sell­ers from Hong Kong and le­gal cases brought against pro-democ­racy leg­is­la­tors and or­gan­is­ers of large-scale antigov­ern­ment protests in 2014.

Hong Kong was promised semi-au­ton­omy for 50 years as part of its 1997 han­dover from Bri­tish rule, al­low­ing it to re­tain its lim­ited democ­racy and rights to assem­bly and free speech that are de­nied on the Chi­nese main­land.

The For­eign Cor­re­spon­dent's Club is an in­sti­tu­tion dat­ing back more than 75 years ago to when Hong Kong was a Bri­tish colony.

At the Au­gust 14 talk at the FCC, Mal­let in­tro­duced Hong Kong Na­tional Party leader Andy Chan by ac­knowl­edg­ing of­fi­cial crit­i­cism while cit­ing the ter­ri­tory's tol­er­ance for dis­sent.

The Fi­nan­cial Times Asia ed­i­tor Vic­tor Mal­let

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