China has lashed out against critics of the decision to bar a British human rights activist from entering Hong Kong on Wednesday, claiming that it is a matter of domestic policy. In doing so, the Chinese government has acknowledged its hand in the decision.
Benedict Rogers, the co-founder and deputy chair of the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission, was prevented from entering Hong Kong after he disembarked from a Thai Airways plane from Bangkok on Wednesday morning.
He said that Hong Kong immigration authorities had provided no reason for barring his entry, but escorted him to take a return flight back to Bangkok that same day.
A senior Chinese official said yesterday that Hong Kong affairs are entirely a domestic matter, and other countries should not interfere.
“Hong Kong has been back under Chinese control since 1997 so its affairs are an entirely domestic matter,” said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying. “The Chinese government is absolutely opposed to any foreign governments, organizations or individuals interfering with Chinese domestic affairs in any way. Our stance on this is unshakable.”
The response implies that Beijing had a hand in the decision, confirming analysts’ speculation over of its tightening grip on the semi-autonomous city.
“China has now revealed its hand,” Rogers told Reuters news agency. “The world ought to have woken up a long time ago.”
Immigration control, freedom of speech and the right to assembly are protected in Hong Kong by the city’s Basic Law, agreed under the terms of the 1997 sovereignty transfer from London to Beijing.
Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam also implied that Beijing was behind the decision, but called on UK politicians to show restraint in interfering with the city’s internal matters.
The remark was a response to the involvement of British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson. “The British government will be seeking an urgent explanation from the Hong Kong authorities and from the Chinese government,” Johnson said.
The last British governor of Hong Kong, Chris Patten, also weighed in on the incident, describing it as disturbing, according to The Guardian newspaper.
British consular official to Hong Kong and Macau, Patrick Turner, said at an event in Macau yesterday, that “Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy and its rights and freedoms are essential to its way of life.”
“Hong Kong has to make its own decisions,” he said, but affirmed that it was “very important that Hong Kong retains rights such as freedom of speech and the right to assemble.”
Rogers claimed he was warned prior to his trip that the Chinese embassy in London was “extremely concerned” about his plans to visit Hong Kong.
Asked whether the consulate might consider providing advice to British nationals about whether they are likely to be refused entry, Turner said: “Where it is a legal matter, we will not provide advice. Equally, it is British government policy that we don’t interfere with other countries’ policies in terms of letting people in. This is more of a political matter now.” DB