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Hong Kong localism and independence

Hong Kong immigration chief shoots down ‘conspiracy’ claims over visitor rejections, insisting that officers follow law and policy

  • Erick Tsang says tens of thousands of cases are handled regularly by frontline staff, and most go unnoticed, with focus on protecting city’s interests
  • Nearly 90 per cent of cases declined in 2017 involved doubtful purpose of visit
PUBLISHED : Sunday, 06 January, 2019, 5:36pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 06 January, 2019, 9:34pm

There is “no conspiracy involved” when visitors are refused entry into Hong Kong without explanation, the city’s immigration chief has said, adding that his officers are guided by law and policy.

Speaking on a radio programme on Sunday morning, Director of Immigration Erick Tsang Kwok-wai said: “Do not always assume there is a conspiracy behind the decisions of the department, or whether actions are linked to specific cases. We handle many cases daily and most go unnoticed.”

He added that safeguarding national security was one of his job priorities.

Tsang’s comments followed recent controversy centred on the Immigration Department’s barring of veteran British journalist Victor Mallet from entering Hong Kong as a tourist.

Mallet was earlier denied a renewal of his work visa after he hosted a talk at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club (FCC) featuring separatist Andy Chan Ho-tin in August last year. Chan was founder of the Hong Kong National Party, a group outlawed by the government in September on the grounds of national security.

Do not always assume there is a conspiracy behind the decisions of the department
Erick Tsang, immigration chief

The immigration stance against Mallet was widely linked to his involvement with the FCC talk.

On Sunday, without commenting on the case, Tsang said the department turned away tens of thousands of incoming visitors each year, ranging from parallel traders to pregnant mainland women suspected of coming to the city to give birth.

The immigration chief insisted that his officers acted under proper law and policy.

“We, as officials, cannot go against the law and do whatever we want ... We have different considerations in each case. We must strike a balance and take into account the interests or benefits of the city.”

Asked if he had the final say in rejections, Tsang added that decisions were made by frontline staff at control points. “If I am needed on all decisions, it will still not be possible even if I sit at all 16 checkpoints across Hong Kong.”

Separatist party leader Andy Chan Ho-tin calls China ‘a threat to all free peoples’

Official figures showed that the department refused 49,033 entries in 2017 compared with 53,499 in 2016 and 56,855 in 2015.

Of the cases declined in 2017, 89 per cent were because of doubtful purpose of visit, while an invalid document was cited as the main reason in nearly 10 per cent of cases.