The Hong Kong Immigration Department rejected the visa application of a musician advocating Taiwanese independence because he did not “possess a special skill, knowledge or experience of value,” according to a letter revealed by local musician Denise Ho.

Freddy Lim is the lead singer of Chthonic, a popular Taiwanese heavy metal band which advocates independence for the island. The band announced on Saturday it had been forced to cancel a show in Hong Kong after failing to get visas in time.

Pro-democracy musician Denise Ho, who invited Chthonic to perform at a festival, said on Monday that she had received a reply from the Immigration Department concerning Lim’s application.

Chthonic. Photo: Chthonic, via Facebook.

“Under existing policy, a person seeking to enter into [Hong Kong] for employment should amongst other things, possess a special skill, knowledge or experience of value to and not readily available in [Hong Kong],” read the Immigration Department’s reply, which Ho posted to Facebook.

“Having considered the information made available and all circumstances of the case, we are not satisfied that this case meets the aforesaid criteria,” the letter continued.

The letter also mentioned other criteria for visa decisions, such as whether there are local substitutes for the job, and the expected level of pay given to the visa applicant.

“Oh, so as long as you don’t have a skill, knowledge or experience that does not exist in Hong Kong, then you will have no hope of getting a visa,” Ho wrote in her Facebook post.

“Foreigners better start practicing special abilities like invisibility, shadow cloning and teleportation before they apply for a work visa.”

Chthonic visa denial

Ho added that the letter only addressed Lim’s case, and there was still no explanation relating to other band members’ visa applications.

She filed the visa applications on behalf of the band in November, but only received a reply on Monday.

‘Lost eight-pack’

Chthonic responded to the letter on Monday, saying that they could not see why Lim was rejected given that he was allowed into Hong Kong previously. The band had performed at the music festival Clockenflap in 2014.

“Freddy, what special ability did you use during past performances in Hong Kong, but can’t use anymore? Please help us remember what he lost besides his eight-pack!” The band posted on Facebook.

The Immigration Department states that work visas can take up to four weeks to process, but Ho previously said music acts usually receive approval within a week.

Lim had previously been denied a visa to Hong Kong in 2016, shortly after the rocker-turned-politician won in Taiwan’s parliamentary election. His New Power Party calls for Taiwan to be recognised internationally as a country.

Denise Ho
Denise Ho. File photo:

Financial Times editor Victor Mallet was refused a work visa extension earlier this year, after he chaired a talk by pro-Hong Kong independence advocate Andy Chan.

In January, foreign bands TTNG and Mylet escaped charges after performing at indie venue Hidden Agenda without the appropriate visas.

HKFP has reached out to the Immigration Department for comment.

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.