China’s Foreign Ministry said it has lodged “stern representations” with Britain over rights activist Benedict Rogers’ ban from Hong Kong.
Rogers, who is also the deputy of the Conservative Party’s Human Rights Commission, was barred from entering Hong Kong last Wednesday without any reason given by immigration officers.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang reiterated on Friday that Hong Kong is part of China, and the central government handles Hong Kong’s foreign affairs. Asked about British Prime Minister Theresa May’s pledge to maintain pressure on China over the matter, Lu said at a regular news briefing: “It is China’s sovereign right whether or not to prevent someone from entering.”
“China has already summoned officials from the British Embassy in Beijing, and lodged stern representations about Britain’s recent series of wrong remarks and actions on this issue,” he added.
At a Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, British leader Theresa May spoke about Rogers’ case in reply to a question from Fiona Bruce MP, the chair of the Commission.
“We want to ensure that the model of one country and two systems is preserved and continues to operate. On the specific case and the specific issue that she has raised, my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary informs me that the Foreign Office has raised this issue at various levels in relation to Hong Kong and China, and we will continue to do so,” she said.
In response, Rogers said on social media: “This is about Hong Kong and its freedoms and autonomy, not about me, and so I am delighted that this continues to be raised at the very highest levels.”
His lawyers wrote to the Hong Kong government demanding an official explanation for the decision to deny the activist entry to Hong Kong, the activist said on Friday.
“The correspondence may be disclosed later when we have received a substantive reply from the Director of Immigration,” Rogers said.
A vocal critic of China and advocate for democracy in Hong Kong, Rogers said he received warnings from the Chinese embassy in London – through a British MP acting as an intermediary – telling him not to come to 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. He said he had reassured the embassy that his trip was purely private, not in any official capacity, and he would not visit jailed activists.
When he was stopped at the Hong Kong airport, his lawyer Albert Ho was barred from meeting him.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said Rogers “knows very well himself” whether his trip to Hong Kong involved an intention to intervene in Hong Kong’s internal affairs and judicial independence.
Following the incident, the UK Minister of State for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Mark Field, said the Chinese ambassador was summoned regarding the issue this week.
Commons Speaker John Bercow said the treatment of Rogers was “frankly utterly scandalous.”
The Hong Kong Legislative Council’s House Committee on Friday rejected an application from lawmaker Claudia Mo to host an urgent debate over Rogers’ denial of entry at the full council meeting.
Update 18:00: The headline of this article was updated to reflect the latest information.