Chief Executive Carrie Lam has said that she believes immigration policies will not affect public confidence towards One Country, Two Systems, after British human rights activist Benedict Rogers was barred from entering Hong Kong.

Just hours after Lam delivered her first policy address on Wednesday, Rogers – the deputy chair of the UK Conservatives’ human rights commission –  was denied entry to Hong Kong after arriving from Bangkok for a private visit.

Attending a joint radio programme on Thursday morning, Lam said that every place exercises discretion with their immigration policies, but they are not at liberty to publicly comment on individual cases over who is allowed entry: “These examples happen from time to time.”

Carrie Lam. Photo: GovHK.

Lam also said that she believed British politicians and commentators have been very unfair to Hong Kong, attacking the city’s judiciary and claiming that judges are facing political interference. “This is forgetting that we have a very independent judiciary, that we have the spirit of common law… and that, today, at least eight non-permanent judges sitting at the Court of Final Appeal are from Britain,” she said.

“If these British commentators think that our courts are not independent enough, does that mean that they think their renowned judges are working together with us to harm Hong Kong’s rule of law?”

Carrie Lam (right). Photo: GovHK.

Asked if Rogers was barred because the Chinese government did not wish for him to enter, Lam said that – under the Basic Law – Hong Kong’s foreign affairs are governed by the Central government and it depends on whether the immigration incident involved foreign affairs. However, she said she could not comment on the details.

‘Purely private’ visit

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.

“I know that the Chinese Embassy became aware of my visit and had misunderstood the nature of the visit and my official status. It seems they thought that I would be travelling on behalf of the Conservative Party,” Rogers told HKFP. “I reassured them multiple times that that was absolutely not the case, that I was not travelling in any official capacity, that I would be making a purely private visit with no public engagements or media interviews, and that it would be a low-key personal visit. Despite those assurances, they still denied me entry.”

Photo: Facebook/Benedict Rogers.

Fiona Bruce MP, chair of the commission that Rogers sits on, said in a statement that it is “extremely disturbing” Rogers was refused entry when he had told her that the proposed trip would be an entirely private visit. 

“I have today raised me [sic] grave concerns about this incident with the responsible Minister at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and sought an assurance that he will take appropriate action to address these concerns with the relevant Chinese authorities as a matter of urgency,” she said.

Karen is a journalist and writer covering politics and legal affairs in Hong Kong for HKFP. She has also written features on human rights, public space, regional legal developments, social and grassroots activism, and arts & culture. She is a BA and LLB graduate from the University of Hong Kong.