Hong Kong denies FT journalist visa after independence talk


Hong Kong (AFP)

Hong Kong has refused to renew the visa of a senior Financial Times journalist who hosted a talk by an activist advocating the city's independence from China, the newspaper said Friday.

Victor Mallet, the FT's Asia news editor, earned the ire of authorities after hosting a speech by Andy Chan, the leader of a tiny pro-independence political party.

Chan had attacked China as an empire trying to "annex" and "destroy" Hong Kong in a strident speech at the city's Foreign Correspondents' Club, where Mallet serves as vice president.

Rival protesters had picketed the talk, which Beijing wanted cancelled, and the city's former leader Leung Chun-ying had called for the club to be evicted from its government-owned premises.

"This is the first time we have encountered this situation in Hong Kong," said the FT, in a statement confirming the British citizen had been denied a visa renewal.

"We have not been given a reason for the rejection."

Mallet's visa rejection indicated a "quickening downward spiral for human rights in Hong Kong", said Human Rights Watch senior researcher Maya Wang.

"The Hong Kong government is now following Beijing's leads in acting aggressively towards those whose views the authorities dislike."

Hong Kong's immigration department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Semi-autonomous Hong Kong enjoys freedoms unseen on the mainland, including freedom of expression, under a handover agreement signed by Britain and China.

But the space for dissent is shrinking as Beijing flexes its muscles in the city.

Hong Kong authorities last week banned Chan's Hong Kong National Party, calling it a threat to national security.

It was the first ban on a political party since the city was handed back to China by Britain 21 years ago.