Hong Kong has declined to renew a work visa for the Asia News Editor of the Financial Times.
He is also an Official of the City’s Foreign Correspondents’ Club (FCC), a decision that has shocked the media community in the financial hub.
The news comes two months after government officials in China and Hong Kong condemned the FCC, one of Asia’s leading press clubs, for hosting a speech by an independence activist, reigniting debate about the viability of the city’s freedoms.
“The Hong Kong authorities have rejected an application to renew the work visa of Victor Mallet, Asia news editor at the Financial Times,’’ the newspaper said in a statement.
“This is the first time we have encountered this situation in Hong Kong. We have not been given a reason for the rejection’’.
Mallet, who is the FCC’s vice-president, and Hong Kong’s immigration department, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
In August, Mallet, who was the FCC’s acting president at the time, hosted a speech by pro-independence activist Andy Chan in a move strongly condemned by China’s Foreign Ministry.
The ministry had urged the FCC to withdraw its invitation to Chan, a founder of the pro-independence Hong Kong National Party, which was formally banned by Hong Kong authorities in September.
Authorities in Beijing and Hong Kong have said the notion of independence is inconsistent with the principle of “one country, two systems’’ under which the territory is governed.
Mallet said in August the FCC neither endorsed nor opposed the diverse views of its speakers, fully respected the law and championed free speech and freedom.
Since Britain handed Hong Kong back to China in 1997, it has been ruled under the “one country, two systems’’ principle, which promises the city a high degree of autonomy and freedoms not enjoyed in China.
In a statement, New York-based Human Rights Watch said the visa rejection, together with the unprecedented banning of the Hong Kong National Party, showed a quickening downward spiral for human rights in Hong Kong.
“This is shocking and unprecedented,’’ it added. “The Hong Kong authorities’ visa renewal rejection without explanation of a journalist who’s done nothing more than his job smacks of Beijing-style persecution of critics’’.
The FCC, whose members include senior lawyers and government officials besides journalists, has long portrayed itself as fostering and defending free speech.
Mallet has worked as a journalist and foreign correspondent for more than 30 years, first at Reuters and then for the Financial Times, including more than 12 years in Asia.