HONG KONG -- The government of Hong Kong has taken the extraordinary step of refusing a visa application by a correspondent for the British daily the Financial Times, in a move likely connected to the reporter's ties to a pro-independence political party banned by the territory.
"The Hong Kong authorities have rejected an application to renew the work visa of Victor Mallet, Asia news editor at the Financial Times," the paper said in a statement published Friday. "This is the first time we have encountered this situation in Hong Kong. We have not been given a reason for the rejection."
Local news reports say this is the first time the government has denied a visa to a foreign journalist. A government official refused to elaborate on the matter when asked by Nikkei, which owns the FT, citing a policy against commenting on individual cases. Applications are scrutinized closely based on the law and government policy, the official added.
Hong Kong said in July it is moving to outlaw the Hong Kong National Party, a political party that advocates complete independence of the territory from China. The local government relied on an obscure provision that authorizes the shutdown of groups that pose a national security risk. Following a grace period for appeals, the party was officially banned in September.
Mallet is also a vice president of the Foreign Correspondents' Club in Hong Kong. He served as the host of an August lecture given by a founder of the Hong Kong National Party, Andy Chan Ho-tin. The Aug. 14 event, organized by the FCC, drew the ire of Hong Kong authorities, which requested its cancellation.
Hong Kong's Basic Law, the region's constitution, states that Hong Kong is an inalienable part of China, although the document guarantees the freedom of speech, of the press, and of association, along with other rights. The FCC issued a statement Friday demanding authorities fully explain the refusal of Mallet's visa and to reconsider the decision.