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Press freedom in Hong Kong

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam dismisses request from 17 former chiefs of Foreign Correspondents’ Club to clarify whether government considers it to be a neutral body

  • Group asked Lam to clarify the government’s position on the FCC as row over journalist Victor Mallet rumbles on
PUBLISHED : Monday, 12 November, 2018, 9:21pm
UPDATED : Monday, 12 November, 2018, 10:54pm

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has dismissed a request by former chiefs of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club for her to say whether the government considers the club to be a neutral body, after its vice-president, British journalist Victor Mallet, was denied entry to the city.

Speaking at a media briefing to conclude her trip to Beijing on Monday, Lam also declined to say if Mallet was not welcome in Hong Kong.

“On the matter of a visa, we have said in public many times that we would not openly comment on a particular case. But I can say for sure that the decision on every person’s entry was made in accordance with the city’s ordinance, our policies, and each case’s special nature,” the chief executive said.

Previously, Mallet, who worked for the Financial Times’ Asia bureau in Hong Kong, was denied a work visa renewal, and was only allowed to stay in the city for seven days after returning from a trip abroad. Last week, he was denied entry into the city.

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Authorities had refused to explain Mallet’s case, but it was believed to be related to his role in a talk organised by the FCC in August, which featured pro-independence activist Andy Chan Ho-tin.

In response, 17 former leaders of the FCC had urged Lam to clarify whether the government still considered the club to be a neutral body – as without such a clarification, members or journalists would be hesitant to take part in its activities.

But Lam said: “Whether a body is neutral is not something for a chief executive to define.

“As I said when this matter first emerged, we respect and welcome foreign journalists’ operations in Hong Kong, that’s why I supported the decision to rent the building to them as their home,” she added, in a reference to the 19th-century Old Dairy Farm Depot on Ice House Street, Central, where the FCC has been quartered since 1982.

“But I hope this respect is mutual, and I hope foreign journalists can obey our laws and enjoy the freedom of reporting as they operate in Hong Kong. So there is no such consideration as to whether it is neutral or not.”

Earlier on Monday, a delegation of Hong Kong business and political leaders, led by Lam, had a meeting with President Xi Jinping and Vice-Premier Han Zheng.

Lam’s Beijing trip came shortly after media reports emerged suggesting that Lam would seek to replace her top minister, Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung.

Carrie Lam grilled in Japan on freedom of speech after Victor Mallet visa denial

Asked if she discussed Cheung with state leaders, Lam said: “We did not touch on [the issue] that you have raised … I don’t know where the speculation came from.

“I would reiterate once more: I have no such plan. My team has been wholehearted and united in implementing the contents of our policy address,” she added, in a reference to the annual blueprint she rolled out a month ago.

Tony Cheung is reporting from Beijing