Security chief: Barring Mallet ‘nothing to do with press freedom’
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 He left the city last month after his work visa was withdrawn on the heels of his hosting a talk at the FCC in August by pro-independence activist Andy Chan Ho-tin, then convener of the recently banned Hong Kong National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.