Hong Kong playwright Yan Pat-to denied entry to Macau on grounds of jeopardising public security

  • Award-winning writer was due to introduce scripts from Europe at theatre event
  • He was given ferry ticket back to Hong Kong after being detained for two hours
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 23 October, 2018, 9:07am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 October, 2018, 7:56pm

Award-winning Hong Kong playwright Yan Pat-to was denied entry to Macau on the grounds of jeopardising public security on Monday evening, after being detained for two hours.

The reason given in the entry refusal notification issued by the Macau Immigration Department to Yan, 43, was that “there are strong references that [Yan] intended to enter to participate in certain activities which may jeopardise the public order or public security”.

The time of issuance on the notification was 5.25pm, although Yan said he remembered arriving at the Outer Harbour Ferry Terminal between 5.15pm and 5.30pm, and being given the notification at about 7.10pm. He refused the authority’s request that he sign the document.

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“One officer told me some rules had changed recently, soon after I was taken into a separate room from the immigration counter,” Yan said. “When I asked him how I could possibly jeopardise their public security and order, he couldn’t explain.”

At 7.20pm, the playwright was given a ticket for a ferry departing for Hong Kong at 7.30pm.

Yan said he was due to “introduce some of the latest scripts from Europe” in a lecture jointly organised by the International Association of Theatre Critics (Hong Kong) and the Macau Theatre Culture Institute.

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“That was the first time in my life to get an entry refusal,” he said, adding that he had been able to travel smoothly in and out of Shenzhen only a week ago.

Yan, also a drama director and educator, wrote the first Chinese play to be selected by the Berliner Festspiele’s Theatertreffen Stückemarkt. His latest production is a stage drama adapted from a fictional work by Hong Kong author Chan Koon-chung, titled The Second Year of Jianfeng, which imagines an alternate history where China was ruled by the Kuomintang, or Nationalists, instead of the Communist Party after 1949.

As part of a pro-democracy cultural workers’ group, Yan in 2016 ran for a place on the 1,200-member Election Committee that selects Hong Kong’s leader. He was the only one in the 15-member group who failed to win a seat.

The playwright’s entry denial came amid heightened security ahead of the opening ceremony of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge on Tuesday morning, which President Xi Jinping attended.

On Tuesday, theatre professionals in Hong Kong urged the Macau authorities to explain the refusal of Yan’s entry to the city.

“Mr Yan went to Macau for a lecture that would not jeopardise the city at all,” the Hong Kong Federation of Drama Societies said in a statement.

The Alliance of Theatre Professionals criticised the accusation against Yan as “extremely unreasonable”.

“We call on the Hong Kong government to seriously follow up on the case and the cause for it with its Macau counterpart to avoid affecting future artistic exchange and freedom of creation,” the alliance said.