A Taiwanese academic scheduled to attend an international seminar in Hong Kong commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre was turned away by Hong Kong customs officials early on Friday, with the customs official claiming to have been informed by Beijing that the academic’s entry permit had been annulled.
Tseng Chien-yuan (曾建元), an associate professor of public administration at Chung Hua University and a board member of the New School for Democracy, said he boarded a late-night plane bound for Hong Kong on Thursday, planning to attend a seminar held by the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China.
“At customs [in Hong Kong], they said they needed to examine my files and later told me that there are problems with my entry permit. At about 3:30am it was confirmed that I could not enter the city,” Tseng said.
Emphasizing that his entry permit, the Mainland Travel Permit for Taiwan Residents, will not expire until the end of this year and that he did not plan to go to the mainland, Tseng said he asked the customs officers for the reason he was denied entry, but received ambiguous answers.
“Customs said they did not know the reason, but only knew that the notification of my permit being revoked was from Beijing,” Tseng said.
“It was curious to hear from the Hong Kong official, when I asked whether I was blocked because of the sensitive timing of the visit [with June 4, the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre, approaching], that the denial of entry was not necessarily associated with June 4, as, he told me, many people are also turned away in non-sensitive times [without justified reasons],” he said.
Tseng understood the remarks to imply that the Chinese government has started to tighten its grip on border control in Hong Kong, a city claimed by Beijing to be self-governing under the “one country, two systems” model.
Despite the Hong Kong official’s denial that the refusal of entry had anything to do with the bloody crushing of the 1989 student-led movement centered on Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, Tseng said that his permit was not recalled physically nor stamped. He said he has no idea whether he has been blacklisted for good or denied entry only this time.
Tseng said he believes this incident has done great harm to the city’s image of operating under rule of law and democratically.
“The spirit of the so-called ‘one country, two systems’ principle has vanished completely,” he said.
The New School for Democracy, an NGO that hosts courses and forums on freedom and democracy, in a statement yesterday denounced the incident and urged the Hong Kong authorities to provide a reasonable justification and take compensating measures, “otherwise the city’s status as an international free port and a global financial center could be tarnished.”
“Beijing has long been violating international law by restricting blacklisted democracy advocates’ visits to Hong Kong, but [Tseng] might be the first Taiwanese citizen, with legal and effective traveling documents, to be denied entry,” the statement said.
It called on the Taiwanese government to protest the violation of its national’s civil rights and request an explanation from Hong Kong immediately, lest the case open the floodgates for future political intervention by Beijing in the civil interaction between Taiwan and Hong Kong.