China backs decision to deny work visa for FT’s Asia editor in Hong Kong

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China has defended its decision to refuse to renew the work visa of a Financial Times editor in Hong Kong, in a case has drawn concern over free speech in the Chinese territory.

The central government “firmly supports” the local government’s rejection of Asia editor Victor Mallet’s visa renewal application, according to a statement from the foreign ministry’s office in Hong Kong.

“No foreign country has any right to interfere,” the office said, in a response to expressions of concern from the UK’s Foreign Office and the US Consulate in the territory.

Victor Mallet and Andy Chan
Mr Mallet shakes hands with Andy Chan, founder of the Hong Kong National Party (AP)

Hong Kong was promised semi-autonomy for 50 years as part of its 1997 handover from British rule, allowing it to retain its limited democracy and rights to assembly and free speech which are denied on the Chinese mainland.

Rights groups have called the visa rejection the latest sign of Beijing’s expanding restrictions on the territory, including legal cases brought against pro-democracy legislators and organisers of large-scale anti-government protests in 2014.

A Hong Kong protest
A protest took place in Hong Kong against the decision (AP)

“Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy and its press freedoms are central to its way of life, and must be fully respected,” the FCO said in a statement.

The US consulate said the rejection was “deeply troubling,” especially since it reflected problems faced by international journalists in mainland China whose visas can be held up or refused because of political considerations.

The Financial Times said in a statement that it was given no reason why Mr Mallet’s application was rejected.

It said: “This is the first time we have encountered this situation in Hong Kong.”

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