The Chief Executive, Carrie Lam, said on Tuesday that linking the rejection of a work visa for Financial Times Asia editor Victor Mallet and a recent controversial talk held at the FCC is "pure speculation".
But Lam insisted that the exact reason should not be disclosed, saying only that the Immigration Department has acted in accordance with the "laws and circumstances concerning the case".
The decision has been widely criticised for being politically motivated as Mallet, who is the first vice-president of the Foreign Correspondent’s Club, chaired a talk by independence advocate Chan Ho-tin in August. Mallet had also acted as a spokesperson for the club before the talk, defending its stance.
Speaking to reporters ahead of the weekly Executive Council meeting, Lam said it is “pure speculation” that the refusal to renew Mallet’s visa is linked to the talk.
“As a rule, not only locally but internationally, we will never disclose … the Immigration Department will not disclose the individual circumstances of the case or the considerations of this decision. So I cannot comment on your speculations,” she told a reporter.
Critics have said the case has undermined press freedom and freedom of expression in Hong Kong, but Lam sought to play down the concerns.
“Freedom of expression, freedom of reporting are core values in Hong Kong. And as the Chief Executive, I and the Hong Kong SAR government will safeguard all these rights enshrined in the Basic Law,” she said.
For his part, Victor Mallet thanked more than 15,000 people who have signed a petition calling on authorities to explain why his visa was not renewed.
“I am very grateful to all those who have signed this petition, particularly those from Hong Kong, which has been home to our family for a total of more than seven years,” he wrote on Twitter.