Four pro-democracy lawmakers were kicked out of the legislative chamber on Wednesday as they protested over press freedom in front of Chief Executive Carrie Lam.
As Lam arrived to deliver her 2018 policy address speech, pro-democracy lawmakers placed placards on their desks that read “press freedom – no persecution.”
Last Friday, HKFP revealed that the visa renewal application of Financial Times Asia News Editor Victor Mallet had been denied. Mallet, the Foreign Correspondents’ Club’s first vice president, hosted a luncheon talk with independence advocate Andy Chan at the club in August. Chan’s Hong Kong National Party has since been banned, with police citing threats to national security. On Sunday, Mallet was given seven days to leave the city, though the authorities have given no explanation.
As Lam entered the legislative chamber on Wednesday, democrats chanted the slogans as Civic Party lawmakers Alvin Yeung, Tanya Chan, Jeremy Tam, Kwok Ka-ki, Neo Democrats lawmaker Gary Fan, Labour Party lawmaker Fernando Cheung, Civic Passion lawmaker Cheng Chung-tai, independent lawmaker Shiu Ka-chun, and Neighbourhood and Worker’s Service Centre lawmaker Leung Yiu-chung walked out in protest.
Some lawmakers continued to chant. Lawmakers Claudia Mo, Eddie Chu, Au Nok-hin and People Power lawmaker Ray Chan were ordered by the legislature’s president to leave. They were escorted out by security guards.
Pro-democracy camp convener Claudia Mo said that the walkout was to protest chief executive Carrie Lam’s failure to explain Mallet’s visa denial.
When asked why not all lawmakers from her camp left the chamber, Mo said the action was “not binding” and each lawmaker could choose how to express their opinion. She added that, despite the walkout, the camp would follow the policy address closely.
After Lam’s speech, Democratic Party lawmaker Ted Hui asked for a debate on the visa rejection issue at the chamber, but it was rejected by Legislative Council President Andrew Leung.
The Financial Times has said it will appeal Mallet’s visa rejection. Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung said that the government will handle the matter in accordance with its existing procedures if an appeal was made.
Executive Council convener Bernard Chan said he did not know the reasons behind the visa rejection and there is an appeal mechanism, but he would not confirm whether the Executive Council had received any application.
UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said in a strongly-worded statement that he remained “very concerned” by the visa rejection incident.
“In the absence of an explanation from the authorities we can only conclude that this move is politically motivated,” he said.
“This undermines Hong Kong’s freedom of speech and freedom of the press, both guaranteed by the Joint Declaration, and the Basic Law, and increases the pressure on the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ framework,” he added. “I urge the Hong Kong authorities to reconsider this decision. Confidence in Hong Kong’s rights and freedoms is an essential component of its future success.”
The statement also included a note that “Freedom of speech is guaranteed in paragraph 3 of the Joint Declaration, and Article 27 of the Hong Kong Basic Law.”