HONG KONG (AP) – The Asia editor of the Financial Times has been refused entry to Hong Kong, weeks after the semi-autonomous Chinese territory refused to renew his work visa.
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.
Hong Kong’s immigration authorities have given no explanation for his expulsion and on Friday responded with a statement saying they 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.”
The denial of a visa to Mallet has been widely condemned by journalists, human rights and civic society groups in Hong Kong, which 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 organizers of large-scale anti-government protests in 2014.
Chris Yeung of the Hong Kong Journalists Association said last month that the denial of Mallet’s visa “sets a terrible precedent for Hong Kong’s reputation as a place where the rule of law applies and where freedom of speech is protected by law.”
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 Correspondents Club is an institution dating back more than 75 years ago, when Hong Kong was a British colony. At the Aug. 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.
That brought heated criticism from the territory’s pro-China elites, some of whom called for the club to be kicked out of its offices in the central financial district.