Sat, Jan 08, 2005 - Page 3 News List

US frowns on HK's snub of Mayor Ma Ying-jeou

AP AND AFP , HONG KONG

The US yesterday criticized Hong Kong's decision to deny a visa to Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九).

"We believe the decision in this case was not a constructive one," said Susan Stevenson, a spokeswoman for the US Consulate General in Hong Kong. She declined to comment further.

The rare criticism came three days after Ma told reporters that he would not be given a visa and that he was canceling plans to give a speech at Hong Kong University next week.

The school had invited Ma to speak about cultural and municipal affairs.

Hong Kong's government declined to say why Ma was denied a visa. Officials said it was a long-standing policy not to comment on individual cases.

Critics of the government have said that the decision would hurt Hong Kong's claim that it enjoys a wide degree of autonomy under a "one country, two systems" model. The former British colony has used the formula since returning to Chinese rule in 1997.

But Ma has suggested he was blocked from traveling to Hong Kong because of his past criticism of China's proposed anti-secession law.

Ma yesterday said he was asked by unidentified people in Hong Kong to cancel a trip there before he was allegedly denied a visa to the territory over his outspoken criticism of Chinese policy.

"Two groups of people from Hong Kong came to Taiwan in the past few weeks telling me there was a change to [my] trip. One group said it had something to do with my criticism of [China's] anti-secession law," Ma told reporters.

He said that one of the visitors asked him to cancel the trip and lie by saying he was "too busy with work."

But Ma added, "I told them that someone of my stature can't say that."

Ma said he didn't know if the groups were sent by Hong Kong Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa (董建華).

Ma said he told the Hong Kong visitors that the proposed anti-secession law "wasn't necessary and was unwise."

The decision to keep Ma out of Hong Kong was perplexing for many because Ma has long been popular there, his birthplace.

Also see story:

Editorial: Ma's setback was Beijing's whim

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