The Financial Times’ Asia News Editor Victor Mallet was stopped and questioned by immigration officials at the airport on Sunday night as he reentered the city.
Local authorities have refused to renew his work visa, but he was allowed to enter as a visitor for seven days.
“Immigration officials did not provide an explanation for the shortened visitor visa, and we continue to seek clarification from the Hong Kong authorities about the rejection of his work visa renewal,” a Financial Times spokesperson said.
Mallet, a British journalist who has over three decades of experience, is also the vice-president of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Hong Kong. He chaired a talk by pro-independence activist Andy Chan at the club in August, despite efforts by Chinese officials to block the event. The Financial Times said they were not given a reason for the rejection.
Lawmakers and NGOs have decried the visa denial as unprecedented, whilst the US has called it “deeply troubling.” The UK’s Foreign & Commonwealth Office and the FCC have demanded an explanation, but the government has not provided a reason for the move.
A ‘chilling message’
In an editorial on Sunday, the Finacial Times’ editorial board said Mallet’s de facto expulsion was highly regrettable: “Mr Mallet is an experienced editor and foreign correspondent. No criticism has been offered of his work as a journalist. In the absence of any proper explanation for the decision, it is therefore hard to resist the conclusion that it amounts to retribution for his role as first vice-president of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Hong Kong.”
It said that it did not support independence for Hong Kong, but strongly supported the principle of free speech: “It sends a chilling message to everyone in Hong Kong, highlighting Beijing’s tightening grip on the territory and the steady erosion of basic rights that are guaranteed in Hong Kong’s laws and international agreements.”
Mallet said he was not authorised to speak on the matter, when contacted by HKFP.
Journalist groups – including the Foreign Correspondents’ Club – will submit a petition to the government at 1pm on Monday calling for an explanation.