Consulate wants clarification as second Briton denied entry

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 01 May, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 01 May, 2008, 12:00am

UK envoy seeks talks as fears for freedom of speech grow

A diplomatic row is brewing between the international community and Hong Kong after a second British national was refused entry - the latest of a number of foreigners banned in the run-up to the Olympic relay.

High-profile American activists Mia Farrow and Jill Savitt, of Dream for Darfur, are scheduled to arrive today. The group has notified the US consulate of its plans in an attempt to prevent complications.

The British consulate asked for a meeting with Secretary for Security Ambrose Lee Siu-kwong 'to seek clarification' on why Matt Whitticase, of the Free Tibet Campaign, and another unnamed Briton were refused entry on Tuesday.

Senior representatives of the European Commission in Hong Kong were also expected to take part in the meeting between British consul general Andrew Seaton and Mr Lee, scheduled for tomorrow afternoon.

Since last week, at least eight nationals of western states including Danish sculptor Jens Galschiot and his two sons, the two Britons, two from Canada and one from Sweden have been denied entry.

A British consulate spokesman said last night the unnamed Briton was still being detained and 'receiving medical treatment for blood pressure'. Mr Whitticase had been sent back to London.

'We have sought a meeting with the secretary for security to seek clarification of facts regarding ... Mr Whitticase. We have also been informed by Hong Kong immigration that a second British national was denied entry,' he said.

A spokesman for Mr Lee reiterated that the government had acted according to the law.

Sources said Mr Lee had told Danish consul general Jorgen Mollegaard on Tuesday that the activists had been banned because anyone lobbying for the 'splitting of China' would not be welcome until after the Olympics because of security fears.

Meanwhile, mainland border officers blocked a board member of the Independent Chinese PEN Centre writers' group from entering Hong Kong on Tuesday, the same day the group's general secretary, Zhang Yu, was turned away and forced to return to Sweden.

Zhao Dagong was with his wife, sister and five other centre members at Lo Wu. They were intending to join World Press Freedom Day activities in Hong Kong on Saturday.

Mr Zhao's companions were allowed through.

'The customs officer immediately called the police after he scanned my travel document,' he said in Shenzhen yesterday. 'Two policemen ... held me for about half an hour. They made me switch off my mobile phone and did not allow me to hand my belongings to my family members. Without explaining why, they said I could not go.'

Mr Zhao said he visited Hong Kong about two weeks ago and held a valid permit. He said police told him early this year he could not go to Beijing during the Games. Officials had approached him again recently and asked about his views on Tibet.

Fellow activist Wen Kejian, who intended to visit Hong Kong for the same functions, said in Hainan yesterday that police had told him this week not to go.

The Hong Kong Journalists' Association and representatives of international and Chinese writers' groups condemned the bans and expressed concern for free speech in Hong Kong.

Activists from the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China yesterday painted the Pillar of Shame at the University of Hong Kong orange, signifying the call for more human rights on the mainland. The statue commemorates those killed in the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown.