UK envoy brings up Mallett row in talks

Local | Amy Nip 12 Nov 2018

The British Foreign Office's Asia minister, Mark Field, has met Chief Secretary for Administration Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, during which he emphasized the importance of One Country, Two Systems to Hong Kong.

This comes in the wake of Financial Times journalist Victor Mallet being banned from entering Hong Kong last week.

The vice-president of the Foreign Correspondents' Club, who hosted a talk by independence advocate Andy Chan Ho-tin, tried to return as a tourist last Thursday but was refused entry by immigration officers - a month after his work visa extension was refused by the government.

Field, the Minister of State for Asia and the Pacific at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, said he would talk to Cheung about Mallet.

He discussed the importance of One Country, Two Systems for Hong Kong's success, and restated Britain's commitment to the Sino-British Joint Declaration.

He also laid a wreath at a ceremony in remembrance of those who died defending Hong Kong during the Second World War.

Speaking in Beijing, Basic Law Committee vice chairwoman Maria Tam Wai-chu said foreigners do not have an inborn right to enter or leave Hong Kong.

Dissident author Ma Jian, who is a Hong Kong permanent resident, managed to enter Hong Kong despite his controversial book China Dream. But for those who are not permanent residents, the government has the power to decide whether they can enter Hong Kong, she said. One should not fix the freedom to enter the city with freedom of expression, she said.

"If the Financial Times feels like it, they can deploy another person (to Hong Kong). The ban of Mallet does not affect news reporting of the Financial Times," she said.

Cheung himself is at the center of a storm over whether he would be replaced in a shuffle.

Rumors say he would be replaced by Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Edward Yau Tang-wah, if Beijing approves the change.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has denied that she would take the issue to central government officials during her Beijing trip. She said there would not be any time for her to meet national leaders on her own. Cheung had said he has nothing to add.

At a City Forum yesterday, Liberal Party chairman Felix Chung Kwok-pan said the change could have something to do with the government needing a stronger person to push the enactment of Basic Law Article 23.

Cheung, 67, may not have the physical strength to persuade business and political leaders in the matter, Chung said.

But Li Pang-kwong, head of Lingnan University's political science, said a change of the government's second person in charge would trigger unnecessary speculation over enactment of the law.

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