Jeremy Hunt attacks Hong Kong in 'free speech' visa row

Bruce Lui Ping-kuen Chris Yeung Florence de Changy Claudia Mo

Demonstrator hold placards that read "freedom of the press, not allowed to be deprived" during a protest after Hong Kong immigration authorities declined a visa renewal for senior Financial Times journalist Victor Mallet.

On Sunday, the FT's Asia editor Victor Mallet was given seven days leave to remain in Hong Kong after his application for a routine extension of his work permit was denied, months after he hosted a talk by a pro-independence activist at the Foreign Correspondent's Club.

He said the denial of a visa to Mallet "sets a bad precedent for Hong Kong's reputation as a place where the rule of law applies and where freedom of speech is protected by law".

Speaking to reporters before her weekly Executive Council meeting, Lam weighed in on the incident for the first time since it was revealed on Friday. "I urge the Hong Kong authorities to reconsider this decision - confidence in Hong Kong's rights and freedoms is an essential component of its future success".

"What you said is pure speculation", she told reporters.

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Hong Kong, a former British colony, returned to Chinese rule in 1997 under a "one country, two systems" principle with the guarantee of a high degree of autonomy and freedoms, including freedom of the press, not enjoyed elsewhere in China.

"I'm sorry, I cannot tell you exactly how journalists should say, or act, or interview, but I can assure you. freedom of expression, freedom of reporting, are core values in Hong Kong".

"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 Facebook. The move drew severe criticism from Hong Kong and mainland Chinese government officials, who called on the FCC to cancel it, but the press club refused, with Mallet arguing that journalists had a "professional responsibility" to hear from Chan without necessarily endorsing his views.

There are growing fears those rights are disappearing.

China's Foreign Ministry has defended Hong Kong's decision to refuse Mallet's visa.

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