Hong Kong localism and independence

Author of book Hong Kong Nationalism among Taiwanese scholars barred from city

Two academics from island have their visa applications rejected, prompting students and legislators to accuse officials of ‘politically filtering’ visitors

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 16 December, 2017, 8:39pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 16 December, 2017, 11:21pm

Two Taiwanese scholars intending to take part in a forum in Hong Kong on local politics have seen their visa applications rejected.

The pair accused the Hong Kong government of undermining academic freedom by refusing them entry and implementing unnecessarily tight immigration controls.

The block on the duo comes after another prominent Taiwanese political and cultural commentator, Chang Tieh-chih, was also turned away earlier this month after flying into Hong Kong’s airport.

The academics barred this time were Dr Wu Rwei-ren and Dr Wu Jieh-min, both associate research fellows at Taipei’s Academia Sinica, which focuses on the study of Taiwanese history.

The pair had been invited by the Hong Kong Federation of Students to speak on the theme “Colonial Hong Kong: from British colonial to Chinese rule”. The forum is to be held on December 22 and speakers include several local scholars and commentators.

Wu Rwei-ren, who was granted a visa in 2014 and 2015, said that when he filed the application online earlier this month, a red box popped up stating he had been rejected, without specifying a reason.

He speculated that the ban was related to articles he had written for the Chinese-language book Hong Kong Nationalism, in which he analyses localism in Hong Kong and expresses support for self-determination.

The controversial title was published in September 2014 and later drew criticism from former Hong Kong leader Leung Chun-ying, who said the book’s publisher – the University of Hong Kong’s student union – was “advocating independence” from China and “putting forward fallacies”.

Hong Kong Nationalism flies off shelves following Leung Chun-ying's policy address criticism

“What disappoints me most is that not only has the Hong Kong government failed to fully defend Hong Kong’s tradition of freedom, but it has taken the initiative to deprive its citizens of their freedom by cooperating with the will of China’s totalitarian rulers,” Wu Rwei-ren said.

He added that there had been two more cases this summer of Taiwanese scholars being refused entry to Hong Kong.

Wu Jieh-min, who last entered Hong Kong in January, said his visa application was rejected last month.

“More and more academics are being denied entry, indicating that Hong Kong’s academic freedom is suffering serious erosion,” he said.

The Federation of Students condemned what it called the “political decision” by the government and urged Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and the city’s Immigration Department to disclose whether the administration had a “black list” of people barred due to their political stance.

A third Taiwanese scholar, Wu Hao-jen, was granted a visa but decided not to come, in protest at the way the other two had been treated.

James To Kun-sun, a veteran Hong Kong lawmaker with the city’s pan-democratic bloc of politicians, said the case was worrying.

Taiwanese politics and culture commentator Chang Tieh-chih barred from entering Hong Kong

“It is a serious matter. As an international financial centre and international city, Hong Kong needs to enjoy freedom to the largest extent,” he said.

Hong Kong pro-democracy party Demosisto condemned officials for “politically filtering” visitors.

It said the series of refusals showed the most recent case was not an isolated one and that “the Immigration Department obviously has got hold of a black list”.

It urged the government to explain.

A spokesman for the Immigration Department said it would not comment on individual cases but it considered all factors and circumstances in handling each application.

In October, a British activist named Benedict Rogers was also barred from entering Hong Kong.