Convincing absolutely nobody, chief executive Carrie Lam today called linking the rejection of senior Financial Times editor Victor Mallet’s work visa and his hosting of a controversial talk by a pro-independence advocate at the Foreign Correspondents Club “pure speculation.”
Mallet, Asia news editor for the FT, was refused a work visa and has since been given only seven days to remain in the city, where he has lived for several years.
The de facto expulsion, which has been roundly criticized by journalism groups, is widely believed linked to Mallet’s role in hosting a talk by Hong Kong National Party leader Andy Chan at the FCC.
The FCC, of which Mallet is a vice president, went ahead with the talk despite attempts by Hong Kong and Chinese officials to have it scrapped, drawing the ire of both governments.
Mallet had acted as a spokesman for the club during the controversy before and after the event and defended its decision, while noting Hong Kong’s protection of free speech.
Speaking to reporters today before her weekly executive council meeting, Lam dismissed the connection between the talk and the visa rejection as seen in video of the news conference posted online by RTHK.
Those making the link were engaging in “pure speculation,” she said.
“As a rule, not only locally but internationally, we will never disclose … the Immigration Department will not disclose the individual circumstances of the case or the considerations of this decision. So I cannot comment on your speculations,” she told a reporter.
In a recent editorial, the FT said that, in the absence of any other explanation for the rejection, it was difficult not to see the decision as “retribution,” particularly, it added, in the context of “Beijing’s tightening grip on the territory.”
Yesterday, several journalism groups delivered a petition with some 15,000 signatures demanding an official explanation from the government about the refusal,
Mallet took to Twitter to express appreciation for the support.
I am very grateful to all those who have signed this petition, particularly those from Hong Kong, which has been home to our family for a total of more than 7 years. Victor. https://t.co/bkE1765Wsz
— Victor Mallet (@VJMallet) October 8, 2018