HONG KONG -- Rights campaigners launched a blistering backlash in Hong Kong Friday after a senior Financial Times journalist was denied entry to the semi-autonomous city, decrying another blow to freedoms under an assertive China.
The refusal by immigration officials to let in the FT’s Asia news editor Victor Mallet Thursday came hours after an arts centre hosting the city’s high-profile literary festival cancelled appearances by exiled Chinese writer Ma Jian.
Amnesty International said it was a “distressing signal” about the state of press freedom in Hong Kong and smacked of “retaliation” against Mallet.
The veteran journalist had already had his work visa renewal denied last month and had left Hong Kong, but was barred when he tried to come back in for a short stay as a visitor.
British citizens are usually allowed into Hong Kong without a visa and are permitted to stay for 180 days under immigration rules.
The government has given no explanation for the original refusal to extend his visa but it is widely believed the decision was linked to Mallet’s chairing of a talk by a Hong Kong independence activist at the city’s Foreign Correspondents’ Club (FCC), where he is first vice president.
Security minister John Lee insisted Friday the decision to prevent Mallet from entering as a tourist was “nothing to do with freedom of expression and freedom of the press” adding he would not reveal the reasons due to “data privacy” and the risk of “prejudice” to immigration policy.
The FCC said it was “shocked and baffled” and described the move as an “aggravated and disproportionate sanction that seems completely unfounded”.