Hong Kong Law & Crime Politics & Protest

Ex-leader CY ‘definitely not’ involved in expulsion of foreign journalist from Hong Kong, says Chief Exec. Carrie Lam

Chief Executive Carrie Lam has denied that ex-Hong Kong leader Leung Chun-ying was involved in the decision to reject a work visa for the vice-president for the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Hong Kong Victor Mallet.

Also the Financial Times’ Asia News Editor, Mallet was repeatedly criticised by Leung for hosting an FCC luncheon talk in August with Andy Chan – co-founder of the since-banned pro-independence Hong Kong National Party.

CY Leung Chun-ying carrie lam

Leung Chun-ying and Carrie Lam. Photo: GovHK.

On Friday morning, Carrie Lam was asked on an RTHK English programme if Leung was involved. In response, Lam said: “Definitely not. Definitely not.” Mallet left Hong Kong on Friday morning.

Lam said that it was the usual practice that the Immigration Department would not explain its decisions regarding visa applications.

The host asked whether visa approval for foreign journalists was a matter for the central government or the SAR government to decide.

In response, Lam said that, according to the Basic Law, she has a dual responsibility to Hong Kong and the central government. She said Article 48 has a list of duties including “to take instructions and to act accordingly.”

“I cannot close the door entirely [by saying] that Hong Kong is exercising full autonomy – Hong Kong is enjoying a high degree of autonomy, but not full autonomy,” she said.

FCC lease 

The current lease of the FCC will end in 2023. Lam said she had no plans to cancel the lease, as some – including Leung – have suggested.

She added that she was the official who supported the FCC renewing its lease without going through a public tender around nine years ago.

“[It was on the] ground that this is a historic monument – it’s better not have too much in-and-out of tenants, which will hurt the building,” she said. “And, of course, another government department said that we welcome foreign correspondents to work and operate in Hong Kong.”

Andy Chan and Victor Mallet

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

Lam said that, when she first heard about the invitation of Chan to speak at the FCC, her first comment was that she respected foreign correspondents working in Hong Kong, and urged mutual respect: “To have a platform for independence advocacy, perhaps, is clearly not [an] indication of respect for the government.”

Asked if the FCC’s decision to go ahead with the talk was disrespectful to the government, Lam said: “I don’t want to comment any more.”

‘Impossible working environment’

The FCC said in a new statement on Friday that the refusal by Hong Kong authorities to renew the work visa of Mallet had generated “grave concern” both in Hong Kong and around the world.

Foreign Correspondents' Club Hong Kong

Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Hong Kong. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Smuconlaw.

“The FCC has asked the Hong Kong authorities to explain this decision, which sets a disturbing precedent and undermines Hong Kong’s reputation as a jurisdiction where the rule of law applies and where freedom of speech and freedom of association are guaranteed by law,” it said.

Carrie Lam had dismissed the ties between the visa rejection incident and the FCC talk as “pure speculation.”

FCC statement in full - click to view

The refusal by Hong Kong authorities to renew the work visa of the Financial Times Asia News Editor Victor Mallet has generated grave concerns both in Hong Kong and around the world.

The FCC has asked the Hong Kong authorities to explain this decision, which sets a disturbing precedent and undermines Hong Kong’s reputation as a jurisdiction where the rule of law applies and where freedom of speech and freedom of association are guaranteed by law.

On October 9, the Chief Executive dismissed as “speculation” the link between the visa refusal for Mr Mallet and the lunch held at the FCC in August where he hosted Andy Chan Ho-tin, co-founder of the now banned pro-independence party HKNP. However, no alternative explanation has been offered. Throughout its long history the FCC has hosted politicians, businesspeople, professionals and artists of varied political persuasions, including senior members of the Hong Kong and Chinese governments and their critics.

The importance of this visa sanction goes far beyond the Foreign Correspondents’ Club and its short or long-term future in Hong Kong; it goes far beyond the FT Hong Kong bureau losing its Asia News editor, and beyond Victor Mallet himself.

This visa decision suggests that free speech may not be permitted in certain unspecified areas. The absence of an official reason or a clear explanation makes the decision appear arbitrary and lacking any basis in Hong Kong law and creates an impossible working environment for the media.

The rule of law is an essential feature of Hong Kong’s identity and its success as an international financial and commercial centre. The FCC therefore reiterates its call for the Hong Kong government to explain its action, or, in the absence of a reasonable explanation, to reverse its decision.

The FCC remains committed to playing an important civic role in facilitating debate and exchange of ideas on a wide range of topics that concern Hong Kong, Asia and the world. We will continue to welcome speakers with a range of views, including pro-establishment figures as well as Hong Kong government and Chinese officials.

“However, no alternative explanation has been offered. Throughout its long history the FCC has hosted politicians, businesspeople, professionals and artists of varied political persuasions, including senior members of the Hong Kong and Chinese governments and their critics,” the statement read.

The FCC said the importance of the incident goes far beyond the future of the club, the FT and Mallet himself.

“This visa decision suggests that free speech may not be permitted in certain unspecified areas,” it said. “The absence of an official reason or a clear explanation makes the decision appear arbitrary and lacking any basis in Hong Kong law and creates an impossible working environment for the media.”

“The rule of law is an essential feature of Hong Kong’s identity and its success as an international financial and commercial centre. The FCC therefore reiterates its call for the Hong Kong government to explain its action, or, in the absence of a reasonable explanation, to reverse its decision.”

The FCC said it remains committed to playing an important civic role in facilitating debate and exchange of ideas on a wide range of topics that concern Hong Kong, Asia and the world.

“We will continue to welcome speakers with a range of views, including pro-establishment figures as well as Hong Kong government and Chinese officials,” it said.

Ex-leader CY 'definitely not' involved in expulsion of foreign journalist from Hong Kong, says Chief Exec. Carrie Lam