Ed­i­tor re­fused en­try to Hong Kong

Crit­ics ac­cuse China of sti­fling free speech in semi-au­ton­o­mous ter­ri­tory

Winnipeg Free Press - - BUSINESS / CHINA -

ONG 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 now­banned po­lit­i­cal party ad­vo­cat­ing the fi­nan­cial hub’s in­de­pen­dence from China.

That brought heated crit­i­cism from the ter­ri­tory’s pro-China elites, some of whom called for the jour­nal­ists or­ga­ni­za­tion 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.

De­spite Mal­let’s re­jec­tion, Hong Kong on Fri­day per­mit­ted dis­si­dent writer Ma Jian to en­ter to at­tend a lit­er­ary fes­ti­val, even af­ter an arts venue in the city had can­celled his ap­pear­ance.

Soon af­ter his

Har­rival, fes­ti­val or­ga­niz­ers tweeted that the venue had re­versed its po­si­tion and would al­low him to speak.

Ma, whose nov­els fre­quently sat­i­rize China’s Com­mu­nist lead­ers, told re­porters at the Hong Kong air­port that he had ex­pe­ri­enced noth­ing un­usual while pass­ing through pass­port con­trol.

“The lec­ture will def­i­nitely hap­pen. If there is a sin­gle Hong Kong per­son who is will­ing to lis­ten or a sin­gle reader who con­tacts me, I will be there,” Ma said.

Ma spec­u­lated there was a “black hand” be­hind the au­thor­i­ties con­trol­ling the con­di­tions un­der which he could ap­pear, but vowed to “com­mu­ni­cate with read­ers over these days in Hong Kong how­ever pos­si­ble.”

In a state­ment 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 had 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 Asian fi­nan­cial hub.

KIN CHE­UNG / THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Writer Ma Jian ar­rives in Hong Kong for a lit­er­ary fes­ti­val on Fri­day. An arts venue in the city can­celled his ap­pear­ance, and then re­versed its de­ci­sion, al­low­ing him to speak.

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