Beijing claims right to bar people from HK

Top News | Amy Nip and agencies 13 Oct 2017

Beijing declared it had a right to bar people from Hong Kong a day after a British political activist was denied entry to the former colony about which London demanded an explanation.

It also came as Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor suggested the barring of the deputy chair of the ruling Conservative Party's human rights commission, Benedict Rogers, was a "diplomatic issue" beyond the scope of Hong Kong.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said the central government was responsible for foreign matters related to Hong Kong. And the central and SAR governments could handle such issues in accordance with laws.

This was also a matter of sovereignty, Hua added, and "Hong Kong affairs are a purely internal matter for China."

She also said Beijing had lodged "a solemn representation" with Britain, meaning an official complaint about the demand for an explanation.

This came after a statement by British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who said: "I am very concerned that a UK national has been denied entry to Hong Kong.

"The British government will be seeking an urgent explanation from the Hong Kong authorities and from the Chinese government.

"Hong Kong's high degree of autonomy, and its rights and freedoms, are central to its way of life and should be fully respected."

Earlier, Rogers said he received an indirect message last week from the Chinese embassy in London, via a British MP, warning that his entry to Hong Kong could be denied.

The activist said he believed the embassy had somehow become aware of private discussions he had been in about possibly visiting imprisoned activists Joshua Wong Chi-fung, Nathan Law Kwun-chung and Alex Chow Yong- kang, though he had later realized that would not be possible.

"It's very clear that the decision in my case was not taken in Hong Kong," Rogers said. "It was clearly taken by the Chinese government."

He also wrote in The Guardian: "This is not about me. It is about Hong Kong. And it is clear from this very stark, personal, first-hand and painful experience that if one country, two systems is not yet completely dead it is dying rapidly, being rendered limb from limb with accelerating speed."

The world, and especially the United Kingdom with its responsibilities under the Sino-British Joint Declaration, must wake up to that, added the man who is planning to start a London-based group to study Hong Kong affairs.

In a policy address forum hosted by radio stations yesterday, Carrie Lam said foreign diplomacy is a central government affair under the Basic Law.

When the host pointed that immigration policy should be a matter the HKSAR government has control over, Lam said she could not go into details.

But Hong Kong does not have full autonomy under its form of constitution, the Basic Law, she added.

That raised eyebrows of legislators, who questioned if Lam was putting the blame on Beijing.

Claudia Mo Man-ching said Rogers had said his visit to Hong Kong was a private one for visiting friends. So it should be an immigration matter, not a diplomatic one. She then asked Lam during a question-and-answer session at the Legislative Council: "Are you introducing one country, one system to Hong Kong?"

Raymond Chan Chi-chien took out a photograph of himself and Rogers and chanted slogans, which led to his dismissal from the chamber. "The government should come clear whether the barring is Beijing's doing," he said on his way out.

Rogers, who flew into Hong Kong on Wednesday morning on a Thai Airways flight from Bangkok, was stopped at immigration and refused entry.

He lived in Hong Kong from 1997 to 2002, and said he had been returning on a private visit to see friends, including democracy activists.

An Occupy movement supporter, Rogers was also involved with a recent letter denouncing the "outrageously unjust" imprisonment of Wong, Law and Chow.

Democrat Albert Ho Chun-yan said it was rare for Hong Kong to bar foreign public figures from entering the SAR.

It was usually Chinese dissidents such as June 4 student leaders.

But academics including Andrew Nathan, a professor of political science at Columbia University, were warned they could be refused entry and did not try to visit. "The situation is deteriorating," Ho added.

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