Foreign journalist group seeks clarity on visasLocal | 20 Mar 2020 4:03 pm
The Foreign Correspondents' Club (FCC) published an open letter today to Chief Executive Carrie Lam and Immigration Director Erick Tsang, in which it appeals for "clear and definitive answers" regarding Beijing's decision to ban reporters from three US outlets from working in Hong Kong, including what implications the move could also have for other journalists in the SAR, RTHK reports.
The FCC says that on behalf of its members and the journalistic community in Hong Kong, it is seeking "unequivocal assurances that the Hong Kong Immigration Department remains an independent body" that will assess each working visa application on its merits.
Its letter puts three questions to Lam and Tsang, the first being whether the journalists from the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post would be able to work in Hong Kong after they are thrown out of the mainland.
The FCC also asks whether an expulsion from the mainland affects a journalist's ability to enter Hong Kong even as a visitor, and whether journalists who already have the right to work in Hong Kong, through a visa or permanent residency, could have this right revoked or "superseded by a decision by Beijing."
"If the Immigration Department is now reliant – in whole or in part – on guidance from the central government in its decision-making on journalists' visas, the FCC as a long-established organisation representing foreign correspondents in the region has a right to know."
The FCC signs off its letter by pointing out that it is not a political organization, and its mission is to "ensure that journalists are free to do their jobs".
Its concerns echo those of the Hong Kong Journalists Association, with chairman Chris Yeung saying on Thursday that if various disputes between the US and China escalate, Beijing could target foreign nationals in the SAR, and not just those working in the media.
After the Foreign Ministry made it clear this week that the expulsions are in retaliation for Washington limiting the number of Chinese nationals allowed to work for mainland media in the US, the SAR government issued a statement saying Hong Kong enjoys press freedom and the Immigration Department will consider the circumstances of each application and act in accordance with the law and immigration policies.