A British journalist being barred from Hong Kong “has nothing to do with freedom of expression or freedom of the press”, the city’s security chief said on Friday.
But Secretary for Security John Lee Ka-chiu said the government would not explain why it blocked Victor Mallet’s entry as a tourist, citing “data privacy considerations”.
It was a second rejection for Mallet, who was denied a work visa renewal last month, sparking a major controversy for the government. The denial was widely linked to his moderation of a talk by pro-independence activist Andy Chan Ho-tin, then convenor of the now-banned Hong Kong National Party, at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club (FCC) in August. The government has given no explanation for the decision.
On Thursday, Mallet – Asia news editor with the Financial Times – was turned away again at the airport after being questioned for nearly four hours. He was asked the purpose of his visit and pressed for details about his plans in the city.
Speaking on the sidelines of a meeting at the Legislative Council the next day, Lee said 60 million people enter Hong Kong from abroad each year, and it was normal for some people to be denied entry.
“Full disclosure of details may prejudice the immigration policy as a whole,” he said.
“In considering any application for entry, we will act in accordance with the law and the prevailing immigration policy to make a decision. This is no different from the immigration authorities of other governments.”
Former secretary for security Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee said she believed Mallet was testing Hong Kong authorities with his latest visit.
“I believe Mr Mallet wanted to test the Hong Kong government’s bottom line; whether he has become an unwelcome person,” Ip, a legislator who also sits on the Executive Council, said.
But pan-democrat lawmakers said it was wrong for the government to bar Mallet. In a statement, the camp said it was “extremely shocked and angry” about the denial. It urged Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor to explain the decision, saying it undermined the freedom of the press and of expression.
He has a home and a job here. You should let him make transitional arrangements
Claudia Mo, pan-democrat legislator
Charles Mok, a member of the camp who represents the IT sector in the legislature, said the business community had expressed concern over the Mallet incident since the furore began last month.
“I know a major international company has halted a massive investment in Hong Kong that is worth more than HK$10 billion (US$1.3 billion) [because of concerns over the Mallet case],” Mok said, without naming the company involved.
The sentiment could only worsen after the latest refusal, he added.
Claudia Mo Man-ching, who convenes the pro-democracy camp’s meetings, said Ip’s claim that Mallet was testing local authorities was laughable.
“He has a home and a job here. You should let him make transitional arrangements,” she said.