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Hong Kong Basic Law

Chinese ambassador to UK summoned over activist barred from Hong Kong, senior British official says

Foreign office minister Mark Field says he will write to Chief Executive Carrie Lam about UK national Benedict Rogers being refused entry to city

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 18 October, 2017, 11:02am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 18 October, 2017, 10:37pm

The Chinese ambassador to the UK was summoned by the British Foreign Office after human rights activist Benedict Rogers was refused entry to Hong Kong last week, a senior official revealed on Tuesday.

“We are very concerned that Ben Rogers, a UK national, was denied entry into Hong Kong on October 11 in absolute disregard of the ‘one country, two systems’ principle,” foreign office minister Mark Field told the UK parliament.

“[The] Foreign Office director general for economic and global issues summoned the Chinese ambassador on this issue over the past few days.”

Field, who covers Asian issues for the ministry, said he would write to Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor to raise his concerns.

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The British official was speaking after Fiona Bruce, an MP and chair of the UK Conservative Party’s Human Rights Commission, asked about the matter in the House of Commons on Tuesday.

“What action is the Foreign Office taking [over] the apparent continuing erosion of the ‘one country, two systems’ principle in Hong Kong?” Bruce asked.

She listed among her concerns “booksellers’ disappearances, the recent imprisonment of a democratically elected representative, and – last week – the refusal of entry into Hong Kong on a purely private visit of UK citizen and human rights campaigner Ben Rogers”.

The first item was a reference to five booksellers who disappeared in Hong Kong in 2015 and later emerged in the custody of mainland authorities.

The second was an apparent reference to the jailings in August of pro-democracy student activists Joshua Wong Chi-fung, Alex Chow Yong-kang and Nathan Law Kwun-chung. Law was a member of the Legislative Council, but was disqualified before the jailing, for improper oath-taking.

Rogers, deputy chairman of the same commission, was refused entry to the city upon arriving at Hong Kong International Airport on October 11. He was then put on a plane to Thailand, where he had flown from, and onwards to London.

Rogers said Chinese officials in London had raised concerns before his trip that he might visit Wong, Law and Chow in prison. But Rogers said he had no plans to visit the trio during his trip, which was a purely private one.

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“One country, two systems” is the governing formula under which Beijing has run Hong Kong since the city was handed from British to Chinese rule in 1997. Under it, the city gets certain freedoms not enjoyed by people on the mainland.

Speaking on the matter last week, Lam, the city’s leader, did not say why Rogers was denied entry, adding that individual immigration cases should not be discussed in public. But she said governments everywhere had discretion over who was allowed in and who was not.

Lam said anyone, including the city’s last colonial governor, Chris Patten, could be barred from Hong Kong. She said no possibility could be excluded, as immigration matters change depending on the case.

She also said that under the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, the central government is responsible for the city’s foreign affairs.

China’s foreign ministry said Rogers knew “well enough” of his intentions to meddle in the rule of law and internal affairs of Hong Kong.