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Taiwan

Why Hong Kong rejected Taiwanese singer Freddy Lim’s visa application

  • Heavy metal band Chthonic was forced to cancel show at a festival on Sunday
  • Immigration Department letter says Lim – the band’s lead singer and a pro-independence lawmaker – did not meet criteria for employment visa
PUBLISHED : Monday, 24 December, 2018, 10:33pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 25 December, 2018, 12:48pm

Hong Kong’s immigration authority rejected a Taiwanese singer and pro-independence lawmaker’s visa application because he did not meet the criteria – including that he did not have the “special skill, knowledge or experience” needed to work in the city.

Freddy Lim Tshiong-tso, lead singer of heavy metal band Chthonic, had been invited to perform on Sunday at a four-day music festival at the Hong Kong Science Park.

On Monday evening, Canto-pop star Denise Ho Wan-sze – who had asked Lim and his band to play at the festival – posted a letter on Facebook from the Immigration Department to Lim refusing his employment visa application.

“Under existing policy, a person seeking to enter into [Hong Kong] for employment should, amongst other things, possess a special skill, knowledge or experience of value to and not readily available in the HKSAR,” the letter from the department reads.

In a comment posted with the letter, Ho wrote: “So if you do not possess skills, knowledge or experience that does not exist in Hong Kong you can’t expect to get a visa.”

The singer and pro-democracy activist also joked that foreigners should practise their invisibility and other superpower skills before they applied for a working visa in Hong Kong.

A spokesman for the Immigration Department said it would not comment on individual cases, but when processing applications it examined whether specific eligibility criteria had been met under the relevant admission scheme and normal immigration requirements. He said the individual circumstances of each application were also taken into account to ensure only those who met the relevant immigration policies would be admitted into Hong Kong.

Meanwhile, the Taiwanese band also posted the letter on their Facebook page, with the comment: “Freddy, what special skills did you have when you performed in Hong Kong before that you don’t have now? Except for losing your eight-pack abs – please help us recall.”

Chthonic performed at Clockenflap, Hong Kong’s biggest annual music festival, in 2014.

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The band was forced to cancel their show on the second day of the annual On the Pulse of Music Festival because of the visa issue. Lim’s visa rejection letter was dated December 21, and Ho’s assistant, Jelly Cheng, said the department sent it by email on Friday evening, but Lim only saw it on Sunday.

According to Ho, the four other members of the band, along with a backup singer from Canada, had yet to hear back from the Immigration Department about their visa applications more than a month after they were filed on November 12. She said they were asked to provide additional documents on December 3.

Lim started the band in Taipei in 1995. He also founded the pro-independence New Power Party in 2015 after the Sunflower student protest movement and was elected as a lawmaker on the self-ruled island in 2016. Lim was also head of the Taiwan branch of the human rights NGO Amnesty International between 2010 and 2014.

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Announcing the band would not be performing at the festival, which finishes on Wednesday, Ho wrote on her Facebook page that in her experience, it usually took the Immigration Department a week to grant working visas for artists. “This time is obviously different,” she wrote.

The department’s website states that it normally takes four weeks to process visa applications for employment once all the required documents have been received.