Pro-Beijing newspapers in Hong Kong have sought to defend the government’s decision to expel Financial Times Asia News Editor Victor Mallet from the city, as well as its subsequent refusal to explain their reasoning.

HKFP revealed last Friday that Mallet’s application for a visa renewal was denied. When he returned to Hong Kong last Sunday, he was granted only a seven-day visitor visa.

He left the city early on Friday morning.

Andy Chan and Victor Mallet
Andy Chan and Victor Mallet. Photo: Pool/SCMP.

Whilst the authorities have refused to comment, lawmakers, journalism watchdogs and democrats have linked the incident to a luncheon talk he hosted at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club (FCC) in August – where he also served as vice-president. The talk was with pro-independence figure Andy Chan, whose Hong Kong National Party (HKNP) had since been banned.

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HKFP rounds up some of the reactions from the pro-Beijing press.

The two main pro-Beijing newspapers in Hong Kong – Wen Wei Po and Ta Kung Pao – connected Mallet to the Hong Kong independence movement, saying that the FCC talk was not just a journalistic event, but a bona fide promotion of Chan’s ideals.

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A Ta Kung Pao article with the headline “Mallet got what he deserved, government acted in accordance with law.”

On Saturday, the day after news broke about Mallet’s visa rejection, Ta Kung Pao ran the headline “Mallet got what he deserved, the government was acting in accordance with law” on the third page. The article said Mallet acted “wilfully” in insisting that the Chan talk should go ahead, and said the FCC became politicised under his tenure.

On the same day, Wen Wei Po ran an article on its third page claiming that the FCC had become a platform for spreading pro-independence views. It also had a separate article saying that the government had a legal basis to take back the FCC’s Central premises.

The focus soon shifted to the government’s refusal to explain the visa rejection, despite growing pressure from foreign nations and press freedom groups.

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A rare op-ed by Chris Wat on the front page of Ta Kung Pao.

On Monday, Ta Kung Pao made the rare move of putting an op-ed on its front page and above the fold. It was titled “Since when had the US or the UK explained their visa rejections?” and was penned by Chris Wat Wing-yin, who is sometimes described as the top pro-establishment writer.

“There’s no need for everyone to be surprised, it’s normal. You are going to other people’s country to promote separatism. We are just asking you to leave, and not putting you in front of a firing squad – it should count as the most civilised form of protest,” Wat wrote.

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In an editorial on Monday, China Daily compared Xi Jinping’s “red line” on independence talk to laws in Germany governing Holocaust denial: “The red line has been clearly drawn. It is there not only for Hong Kong residents to observe, but also for expatriates residing or working here.”

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Ta Kung Pao (left) and Wen Wei Po (right) list case studies of visa rejections on Wednesday.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, both Ta Kung Pao and Wen Wei Po then published case studies of visa rejections. Examples included far-right activist Lauren Southern, former Hezbollah spokesperson Ibrahim Moussawi, Canadian photojournalist Ed Ou, BBC journalist Rana Rahimpour, and Edward Snowden.

One article also criticised Tara Joseph, head of the American Chamber of Commerce – formerly a Reuters reporter and Foreign Correspondents’ Club president. The American Chamber of Commerce had issued a strongly-worded statement criticising the visa rejection on Monday.

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A Ta Kung Pao article links Tara Joseph with independence advocates.

A Ta Kung Pao report on Wednesday, published on its second page, claimed that Joseph had previously advocated Hong Kong independence by inviting pro-democracy public figures – including Umbrella Movement activists Joshua Wong and Nathan Law – to talks. Joseph was head of the FCC during 2013-2014 and 2016-2017.

Neither Joseph nor Mallet have voiced any support for the independence movement. The Financial Times has since said it will appeal the visa decision.

Holmes Chan is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. He covers local news with a focus on law, politics, and social movements. He studied law and literature at the University of Hong Kong.