The Hong Kong Bar Association has urged the government to explain the denial of a work visa renewal for Financial Times Asia news editor Victor Mallet, as well as Immigration’s refusal to allow him to reenter the city.

The Bar Association, a group of the city’s top lawyers, said it has expressed concern over the incidents, which the government has refused to comment on. Mallet, also the Foreign Correspondents’ Club’s vice-president, hosted a talk in August with pro-independence activist Andy Chan at the press club, before he faced de facto expulsion.

“The right to freedom of expression is enshrined in the Basic Law. It includes the freedom to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authorities,” read a statement issued by the Bar Association on Thursday. “Everyone, in particular the Government, has an obligation to respect such freedom whether one agrees with the information or ideas or not.”

Victor Mallet. Photo: Paul Yeung/Pool.

“Whilst the right to freedom of expression is not absolute, any restriction on its exercise in a society which respects and protects such a right must be a proportionate response with the aim of upholding a legitimate societal interest and backed by cogent and persuasive evidence.”

The Bar Association said that it believed that the public, both domestically and internationally, is justifiably concerned whether the decisions on Mallet “constitute undue interferences with the right to freedom of expression.”

“Without any reasons being given by the Government, the public is in no position to judge whether the decisions are proportionate responses to protect a legitimate societal interest as aforesaid and thereby have its concerns removed,” the statement read. “Hong Kong’s reputation as a society which is governed by the rule of law and is protective of the fundamental rights of its residents is being damaged.”

Hong Kong Bar Association Chair Philip Dykes. Photo: Citizen News.

“The HKBA therefore calls upon the Government to explain the Decisions so that the public can see if good reasons exist for them. The Government should demonstrate that it will fulfil its duty to safeguard all the rights and freedoms enshrined in the Basic Law.”

A report released by US-China Economic and Security Review Commission on Wednesday said that Hong Kong was moving closer to becoming “more like any other Chinese city,” citing the Mallet case as one of the examples. The report said the US Department of Commerce should review its export control policy for civilian technology with military applications.

HKFP have contacted the immigration department for comment.

Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.