Journalist Victor Mallet made himself unwelcome in Hong Kong
The acting head of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club and his allies took a cavalier view of China’s concerns about Hong Kong independence in the name of free speech
Amid the devastation caused by Hurricane Michael in Florida, the US state’s Republican senator in Washington, Marco Rubio, still finds time to worry about a British journalist who didn’t get his work visa renewed in Hong Kong. His concern for our welfare is almost touching.
Well, except the guy is a one-trick pony, who uses every political controversy, big or small, in Hong Kong to play his anti-China card. His nomination of young activist Joshua Wong Chi-fung for the Nobel Peace Prize was at least amusing; otherwise his routines are getting tiresome.
Now, I wish Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor would grow a spine and tell little Marco, a moniker bestowed on him by US President Donald Trump, to stuff it. Stand your ground, Carrie, that’s the name of a law in Florida.
What do you do when you have an unwelcome guest in your home? You send him packing. That’s what Hong Kong did with Financial Times journalist Victor Mallet. By not renewing his work visa, we did it in the politest and most civilised manner possible.
No one has accused Mallet of breaking any law. As acting head of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club, he invited Hong Kong National Party chief Andy Chan Ho-tin to expound on separatism. The party had not been banned then, so the invitation was perfectly legal.
It was banned a few weeks later. Were the FCC to do it again, it would be illegal. But Hong Kong is still under British common law, so the ban is not retroactive – “one country, two systems”! However, the FCC did something unwise, unnecessary, and unnecessarily provocative.
That’s why heads, or at least a head, had to roll. There is still accountability and responsibility in this world even if you, mistakenly, think shouting “free speech” gives you a licence to do and say anything.
This is the accountability to the red line long made known by China. Indeed, it is the reddest of all red lines: separatism or advocating the break-up of the country. Having waited a century and a half for the end of British imperialism to take back the city, the Chinese may be forgiven for taking an extremely dim view of Hong Kong independence.
Mallet and his allies took a cavalier view of the Chinese concern in the name of free speech. By doing so, he made himself unwelcome. That’s why he was given the boot.