But commission members will visit Hong Kong this week in a 'low profile, low-key' fact-finding mission A US commission on religious freedom has decided to skip a trip to Beijing and will instead only visit Hong Kong this week. The commission has already called off two planned visits to the capital in the past five months. Earlier this month it scrapped a trip after claiming the central government had imposed unacceptable conditions by saying the panel could not meet religious and human rights figures in Hong Kong. In July, it called off a planned trip to the mainland after allegedly being told to drop Hong Kong from its itinerary. Last week the US government issued a report criticising the mainland, along with other countries such as Myanmar and North Korea, for controlling religions. The report prompted a strong protest from Beijing. A four-member delegation from the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, which drafts reports and advises Washington on the issue, will visit Hong Kong on Friday and stay until January 6 in what it terms a 'low-profile, low-key' trip to prepare for a future mainland visit. Panel members plan to consult local figures on religious and human rights about the religious situation in Hong Kong and on the mainland. Speaking to the South China Morning Post, commission spokeswoman Anne Johnson denied the Hong Kong visit would stir another row with Beijing. 'This is a low-key visit. We'll be meeting with these individuals who can shed some light on the situation on mainland China. The trip is about preparation for a trip to mainland China,' she said. 'The trip is not about Hong Kong per se, it's about seeking information about the situation in mainland China with individuals who are familiar with the situation.' The delegation, to be led by Felice Gaer and Preeta Bansal, plans to meet academics, religious leaders and human rights activists who have 'special insights in political, legal, social and religious issues in the mainland and Hong Kong'. Those invited for discussions with the panel include the head of the Catholic Church in Hong Kong, Bishop Joseph Zen Ze-kiun - an outspoken critic of religious conditions on the mainland - Law Yuk-kai, director of the Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor, and Democratic Party legislator Martin Lee Chu-ming. The commission said it had not contacted Hong Kong officials and had no plans to meet them. It would not confirm whether it had notified the central government about its schedule. A Hong Kong government spokesman said it had not been in contact with the commission and did not reveal whether it had consulted Beijing. A US consulate spokeswoman said Washington 'strongly supports' the commission's visit. She also added that that under normal circumstances US citizens would not need a visa to visit Hong Kong.