A British human rights activist who is vocal in criticising China and advocating for democracy in Hong Kong was barred from entering the city on Wednesday.

Benedict Rogers, the deputy chair of the UK Conservatives’ human rights commission, flew into Hong Kong on Wednesday morning on a Thai Airways flight from Bangkok.

Update: ‘The idea of Hong Kong people running Hong Kong is dead,’ says British activist denied entry to the city

Rogers told HKFP at around 1:50pm that Hong Kong Immigration had denied him entry. No reason was provided to him.

benedict rogers
Photo: Benedict Rogers, via Facebook.

The Chinese Communist Party will host its 19th National Congress in Beijing next week.

Rogers lived in Hong Kong between 1997 and 2002 and his writing occasionally appears on HKFP. Following the imprisonment of activists Joshua Wong, Nathan Law and Alex Chow, Rogers wrote in a comment piece that “the international community must speak out – and stop its shameful kowtowing to China.”

Following the denial of entry, he told the Guardian: “It is absolutely bizarre… I had received a warning that this might happen so I was mentally prepared for it but was hoping it wouldn’t happen. I feel very shocked. I feel it is yet another example of if not the death then the death throes of ‘One country, two systems.’”

According to former chief secretary Anson Chan, Rogers was making a private visit to meet friends, pro-democracy lawmakers and human rights organisations. No public events were planned.

Rogers’ lawyer, former lawmaker Albert Ho, told HKFP that he made contact with him at the airport. However, immigration officers refused to speak to him when Rogers passed the phone to them.

Albert Ho
Albert Ho. File Photo: InmediaHK.

Ho then called the airport immigration hotline, but he was denied access to his client. He made seven further calls but was ignored: “They intentionally did not want me to see him, ignoring the request from his lawyer. The Immigration Department is turning into Chinese police.”

Democratic Party lawmaker Ted Hui, who met Rogers in the UK earlier this month, said he understood that the Chinese embassy has warned Rogers that he will not be allowed to enter Hong Kong, despite causing no security threat.

“Now the warning from the embassy has come true, it means that the Hong Kong government has given up its autonomy on immigration to the central government,” said Hui.

He urged the Hong Kong government to take back its autonomy and allow Rogers into the city, so that the international community can continue to monitor Hong Kong’s democratic situation and human rights.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam was asked about the incident at a press conference following her first policy address: “I do not comment on individual cases of entry. I am sure you know that this is a matter for the immigration authorities,” she said.

Anson Chan told HKFP that she found the incident to be very shocking: “It’s a fact, not a secret, that he’s very concerned about the undermining of ‘One Country, Two Systems’.”

Anson Chan
Anson Chan. File Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

“This is yet another attempt to undermine Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy… Who is calling the shots here? Is it the Hong Kong government and Immigration? Or has this been dictated from upon high? Is this the norm from now on?”

UK protests

At a protest in London after the August ruling, Rogers read out a statement signed by 25 public figures – which was organised by him – including parliamentarians, lawyers and civil society leaders from the UK, the US, Canada, Malaysia, Indonesia and Myanmar.

He also joined protests in Britain on China’s National Day on October 1. The following day, he met visiting Hong Kong lawmakers including Ray Chan, Eddie Chu, Ted Hui, Alvin Yeung and activist Derek Lam.

Lawmaker Ray Chan said he strongly condemns the government for denying Rogers entry.

“Whether or not Chinese mission to London is involved in the decision, it further shows that the purported ‘One Country, Two Systems’ that guarantees Hong Kong’s freedom and human rights is quickly being eroded,” he wrote. “International confidence in Hong Kong will also be undermined as a result. I call on the British Government to demand an explanation from its Chinese counterpart.”

Hong Kong International Airport
Photo: Wikicommons.

In 2014, a House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee delegation of eight British MPs were warned by the Chinese embassy that they would be denied entry to Hong Kong if they tried to go ahead with a planned visit during the pro-democracy Occupy protests. The group included Sir Richard Ottaway, the then-chairman of the Commons foreign affairs committee.

Following the incident, Chinese ambassador to the UK Liu Xiaoming wrote in the Telegraph that the ban on entry was not intended to insult the committee: “China was only safeguarding its national sovereignty and security,” Liu wrote.

Additional reporting: Tom Grundy.

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.