A senior member of the Foreign Correspondents' Club in Hong Kong has had his work visa renewal application rejected in the wake of the club's hosting of a speech by an independence advocate that drew fierce criticism from Beijing, the FCC confirmed Friday.
As the first vice president of the FCC, Victor Mallet, the Asia news editor for the Financial Times, in August hosted a luncheon at the club at which Andy Chan, a founder of the now-defunct Hong Kong National Party, was invited to speak.
The club said in a statement that it is "deeply concerned" over the decision.
"The FCC is expecting a full explanation from the Hong Kong authorities for this extraordinary move, which is extremely rare, if not unprecedented. In the absence of any reasonable explanation, the FCC calls on the Hong Kong authorities to rescind their decision," it said.
The British-based newspaper said in a statement that it is the first time it has encountered such a situation in Hong Kong. "We have not been given a reason for the rejection," it added.
Mallet, who is British, could not be reached immediately for comment.
The Immigration Department, which issues work visas, declined to comment on individual cases, while claiming that the "decision on each case is made according to relevant laws and policies."
"It is guilt by association and severely damages freedom of press and freedom of speech," Chan said in commenting on Mallet's case. "This may arouse the awareness of the U.S. of sanctioning Hong Kong together with China."
In his speech at the standing-room only event, Chan said that if Hong Kong is to become truly democratic, its sovereignty must rest with the people of Hong Kong.
In a subsequent letter to U.S. President Donald Trump, Chan called for the United States to extend its trade war with China to Hong Kong.
Beijing authorities overseeing Hong Kong's affairs and Hong Kong's pro-Beijing camp strongly criticized Chan and the club for facilitating the event.
Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung has said the club's providing a platform for an independence advocate "disregards Hong Kong's constitutional duty to uphold national sovereignty."
The Chinese Foreign Ministry office in Hong Kong said it was "enraged" that the press club proceeded with the event after warnings to cancel it.
"What is relevant is that speakers are able to speak from any political point of view," Mallet said at the end of the Chan luncheon on Aug. 14.
"The level of pressure put on us and on (Chan) not to have this event was unusual. Now that he has spoken, it proves that freedom of the press and freedom of speech still exist in Hong Kong. The rule of laws still applies," he added.
Last month, the Hong Kong National Party was banned by the Hong Kong government, becoming the first political party to be outlawed since Hong Kong's 1997 unification with China.
The Hong Kong Journalists Association said denying Mallet's visa renewal is "shocking" and could be viewed as a retaliatory effort by the government against the FCC for hosting Chan, one that seriously damages free speech and free press.
Pro-Beijing lawmaker Pricilla Leung said providing a platform for independence advocates in Hong Kong is prohibited as it breaches the "one country, two systems" principle and the Basic Law, the mini-constitution in effect since the former British colony was returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
Hong Kong was promised a 50-year status quo with its way of life since the handover, but Beijing's perceived encroachment of rights and freedoms in the territory has helped fan growing anti-China sentiment and calls for self-determination on Hong Kong's future.