Chief Executive Carrie Lam said on Friday that although immigration matters are for the Hong Kong government to decide, there are times when the SAR authorities are answerable to the central government.
Talking during a RTHK phone-in programme, Lam said she couldn't say much about the denial of a work visa to Financial Times journalist Victor Mallet, as an appeal over the decision has been filed by the London-based newspaper.
It is widely thought that the decision is linked to the row over the Foreign Correspondents' Club hosting a talk by pro-independence advocate Chan Ho-tin. Mallet, who is the club's first vice president, had defended the decision, saying it was a freedom of press issue.
One caller, Duncan, questioned Lam over the government's decision on Mallet and compared it to when Benedict Rogers, a British human rights activist, was denied entry to Hong Kong last year.
"Last year, you were saying that Benedict Rogers visa as an issue for Beijing and two days ago ... I heard you saying that the visa for Victor Mallet was in the hands of the HKSAR government. So, there's some contradiction there," he said.
Lam said she has repeatedly stated that the government will not comment on individual cases.
One of the show's hosts, Danny Gittings, then asked whether visa-vetting for foreign journalists is a matter for the central government or the SAR government to decide.
The Chief Executive said she is answerable to the people of Hong Kong and the central government, as per the Basic Law.
"If you look at the Basic Law, there are certain provisions that will make certain matters that are matters within the national interest," she said. "And the Chief Executive, having her dual accountability, because I am responsible to the Hong Kong SAR and the people, I am also accountable to the central people's government."
Lam also said that "it's not about foreign nationals or locals, but it's a question of acting in accordance with the Basic Law and local laws, the policy and the circumstances on the particular case".
When the show's co-host Hugh Chiverton asked if former Chief Executive CY Leung, who was very vocal in his opposition to the FCC talk, had any role in the visa denial, Lam retorted: "Certainly not."
Mallet tweeted a picture of a departure sign at the airport on Friday morning. He arrived in Hong Kong from Thailand on Sunday and was allowed to stay in the SAR only for seven days.
Last updated: 2018-10-12 HKT 11:17