Hong Kong has refused to renew the visa for the foreign press club’s vice president, HKFP has learned.
Victor Mallet, the Financial Times’ Asia News Editor, has served as the vice-president of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club in Hong Kong since 2017.
“This is the first time we have encountered this situation in Hong Kong, and we have not been given a reason for the rejection,” a spokesperson for the Financial Times told HKFP.
Update: Press club criticises ‘rare and extraordinary’ gov’t bid to expel vice-president from Hong Kong
Mallet chaired a talk by pro-independence activist Andy Chan at the FCC in August, which the office of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Hong Kong had tried to block.
The FCC was heavily criticised by the Hong Kong government as well as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for hosting the talk.
Former chief executive Leung Chun-ying compared the event to giving terrorists a platform. He also said that many would want the club to explain why the government should not allow others to bid for its premises in Central. However, the lease of the FCC was authorised in 2015 by Leung.
Update: Hong Kong’s denial of visa to foreign journalist a ‘vindictive act’, says lawmaker
The event came after the police suggested banning the Hong Kong National Party. Chan’s speech drew the media spotlight and a strong reaction from the police, who considered the speech to be additional evidence in their case against Chan and his party.
The party was officially banned late last month by the government, which cited concerns over national security, public safety, public order, protection of freedom and the rights of others.
‘Shocking and unprecedented’
Maya Wang, China researcher at NGO Human Rights Watch, described the move as shocking and unprecedented: “The Hong Kong authorities’ visa renewal rejection—without explanation—of a journalist who’s done nothing more than his job smacks of Beijing-style persecution of critics.”
She added that it “indicates a quickening downward spiral for human rights in Hong Kong: that the Hong Kong government is now following Beijing’s leads in acting aggressively towards those whose views the authorities dislike.”
Mallet was previously based in New Delhi as the bureau chief in South Asia and has three decades of experience in Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Africa, according to his biography.
A UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokesperson said it was “concerned” by the rejection of Mallet’s visa renewal.
“We have asked the Hong Kong Government for an urgent explanation. Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy and its press freedoms are central to its way of life, and must be fully respected,” a spokesperson said.
The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Hong Kong has said that it is deeply concerned about the government’s decision.
The club has called upon the authorities to rescind their decision saying it lacked any reasonable explanation.
“The FCC is expecting a full explanation from the Hong Kong authorities for this extraordinary move, which is extremely rare, if not unprecedented,” it said in a statement.