The lone Hong Kong delegate on the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, Tam Yiu-chung, said on Monday that he doesn’t think the SAR government’s decision not to renew the work visa of Financial Times journalist Victor Mallet has anything to do with free speech or press freedom.
But Tam said the central government had made clear its zero tolerance towards independence calls, and those who broach the subject do so "at their own risk".
Speculation is rife that Mallet’s application was rejected last week because he is the first vice-president of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club, which hosted independence advocate Chan Ho-tin during an FCC luncheon two months ago, despite heavy criticism from Beijing and local authorities.
Speaking on a radio programme, Tam said he doesn’t know why the Immigration Department rejected Mallet's application.
But even if the decision was linked to the FCC talk, he believes the government’s action was appropriate as part of its zero-tolerance policy against calls for independence.
Meanwhile, the London-based Financial Times said in an editorial that the decision not to extend Mallet's visa sends "a chilling message to everyone in Hong Kong, highlighting Beijing’s tightening grip on the territory".
While the paper said it does not support the idea of Hong Kong independence, it strongly supports the principle of free speech.
The editorial board said the incident shows a "steady erosion of basic rights that are guaranteed in Hong Kong’s laws and international agreements".