CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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De facto explusion raises questions about Hong Kong’s freedoms

HONG KONG (UCAN): “Does it mean that other people working in Hong Kong cannot act or talk contrary to the government’s stance otherwise, will they be treated in the same way and be deported?” asked Jackie Hung, of the Justice and Peace Commission, following the Hong Kong government’s refusal to renew the work visa of respected veteran British journalist and Asia news editor for The Financial Times, Victor Mallet.
She said the incident damaged the freedom of speech and the press guaranteed by the Sino-British Joint Declaration, Hong Kong’s Basic Law and international human rights conventions.
Amnesty International said the visa refusal was political payback that would have adverse consequences for press freedom in the city.
Most commentators believe the refusal to renew Mallet’s work visa was related to his role as acting president of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club (FCC), when he facilitated a talk by an independence activist, Andy Chan, in August, igniting a local and international debate about the city’s promised freedoms guaranteed by China after the 1997 handover. 
The journalist was out of Hong Kong when his visa renewal was refused, but was allowed back into the city on October 7 on a seven-day tourist visa, instead of the six-month visa usually given to British nationals.
Speaking on RTHK radio on October 12, the city’s chief executive, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, said the Immigration Department could not disclose why an individual work visa was not renewed.
Asked if Beijing influenced the decision, Lam insisted that immigration matters fell within the purview of the Hong Kong government.
Pressed on the denial of a visa to a British activist last year when she said the Chinese government had authority “if immigration matters become matters of foreign affairs,” Lam refused to be drawn on the two cases.
The FCC said the decision had generated grave concerns in Hong Kong and around the world. “This visa decision suggests that free speech may not be permitted in certain unspecified areas,” it said in a statement issued October 12.
“The absence of an official reason or a clear explanation makes the decision appear arbitrary and lacking any basis in Hong Kong law and creates an impossible working environment for the media.”
The British foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, said on October 9 that the lack of any explanation by Hong Kong government he could only conclude it was politically motivated.
“I urge the Hong Kong authorities to reconsider this decision—confidence in Hong Kong’s rights and freedoms is an essential component of its future success,” he said.
In an editorial on October 8, The Financial Times said the de facto explusion “sends a chilling message to everyone in Hong Kong, highlighting Beijing’s tightening grip on the territory and the steady erosion of basic rights that are guaranteed in Hong Kong’s laws and international agreements.”

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