A British human rights activist who was barred from entering Hong Kong on Wednesday has told HKFP that the incident indicated “very grave threats” to the city’s autonomy.

Benedict Rogers, the deputy chair of the UK Conservatives’ human rights commission, was denied entry to the city after arriving from Bangkok for a private visit. He said: “If China is now in control of Hong Kong immigration, it means that the idea of Hong Kong people running Hong Kong is dead, and if China decides to deny entry to Hong Kong to a person simply for wanting to meet people who have a range of political views, it means the basic rights of freedom of expression and freedom of association are undermined.”

Rogers is vocal in criticising China and advocating for democracy in Hong Kong. He had urged the international community to speak out for three jailed Hong Kong protest leaders – Joshua Wong, Nathan Law and Alex Chow.

Benedict Rogers. Photo: Benedict Rogers.

He added that the fact he could not access his lawyer Albert Ho at the airport also raised questions about the rule of law: “It’s a sad day for me personally, but this should not be about me, it should be about Hong Kong. And it’s a sad day for Hong Kong, because of the signal this sends.”

‘Professional and impartial’

The Immigration Department told HKFP that it does not comment on individual cases: “In handling each immigration case, the ImmD will, having regard to the individuals’ circumstances, decide whether the entry will be allowed in accordance with the Hong Kong Law and prevailing immigration policies… [S]taff have all along been discharging duties according to prevailing procedures in a professional and impartial manner,” it said.

Democratic Party lawmaker Ted Hui, who met Rogers in the UK earlier this month, said he understood that the Chinese embassy in the UK has warned Rogers that he would not be allowed to enter Hong Kong.

Former chief secretary Anson Chan said she did not believe it was the Hong Kong government’s decision to bar Rogers: “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?”

Hong Kong International Airport. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

In a statement, the Demosisto party condemned the incident and called for the British authorities to act: “The Chinese authoritarian arm to clamp down on liberties and human rights will only extend should they be left unchecked, and will only affect more and more foreign citizens.”

UK responds

Following the denial of entry, Rogers was taken to a plane departing for Thailand by an immigration officer. He said that the Chinese embassy in London had misunderstood the nature of his visit, which was not an official trip on behalf of the Conservative Party.

Responding to the incident, a UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokesperson said: “We are aware that Benedict Rogers has been denied entry into Hong Kong. We do not comment on individual consular cases, but are seeking urgent information on the reasons for this. We have always said that we expect ‘One Country Two Systems’ to be respected.”

Boris Johnson. FIle Photo: Flickr.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson also expressed concern: “The British Government will be seeking an urgent explanation from the Hong Kong authorities and from the Chinese Government. Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy, and its rights and freedoms, are central to its way of life and should be fully respected.”

Earlier, Rogers’ lawyer, former lawmaker Albert Ho, told HKFP that he was not allowed to meet his client at the airport despite repeated requests to the Immigration Department.

The Civil Human Rights Front said it strongly condemned the denial of entry and infringement of human rights during Rogers’ detention, since he was unable to meet Ho.

Benedict Rogers at a protest in London over democracy in Hong Kong. Photo: Benedict Rogers.

“[He] had lived in Hong Kong and arrived in Hong Kong through normal means, we do not understand on what grounds the Immigration Department can bar him from entering Hong Kong,” a statement read.

The Front added that it was concerned over whether the Hong Kong government would use “anti-terrorism” as an excuse to block international observers from monitoring the human rights situation in the city.