Thu, Oct 11, 2018 - Page 4 News List

HK legislators walk out of Lam’s speech

‘MEDIA PERSECUTION’:About a dozen lawmakers held a protest as authorities continued to refuse to explain their decision not to renew a foreign journalist’s visa

Reuters, HONG KONG

Pro-democracy legislator Claudia Mo, right, is surrounded by security as she shouts “Free press, no persecution,” as Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam, not pictured, arrives to deliver her policy address at the Legislative Council yesterday.

Photo: AFP

Several Hong Kong lawmakers yesterday walked out of the Legislative Council as Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam (林鄭月娥) was about to give her annual policy address, protesting against the rejection of a work visa for a senior British journalist.

Chanting “Protect media freedoms” and holding placards that said “Free Press. No Persecution,” about a dozen pro-democracy lawmakers left the chamber before Lam gave a 45-minute speech laying out policy priorities for the former British colony.

The protest came after Hong Kong last week rejected a visa renewal application from Victor Mallet, the Asia editor for the Financial Times newspaper, who in August hosted a speech at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club (FCC) by a pro-independence activist.

Hong Kong authorities and Lam have so far refused to explain the visa decision.

“We were expressing our anger and disgust at Carrie Lam,” said pro-democracy lawmaker Claudia Mo (毛孟靜), who took part in the protest.

“She is practically turning Hong Kong into an international joke... She’s quite determined to rule by fear,” Mo said.

Lam said linking Mallet’s visa rejection to the Chan talk was “pure speculation.”

“As a rule — not only locally, but internationally — we will never disclose, the immigration department will not disclose, the individual circumstances of the case or the considerations of this decision,” Lam told reporters.

The FCC, one of Asia’s leading press clubs, said it neither endorsed nor opposed the views of its speakers, but was an institution defending the right to free speech.

The visa denial has sparked a storm of protest and has drawn criticism from the US and the UK.

British Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Jeremy Hunt on Tuesday suggested the visa rejection was “politically motivated” and he called on authorities to reconsider.

Critics say China’s authoritarian reach is creeping further into Hong Kong.

“Authorities in mainland China routinely restrict people’s ability to engage in peaceful advocacy and public discussions on grounds of ‘national security’ by using this vaguely and broadly defined concept as a pretense to place unjustified restrictions on the exercise of these freedoms,” Amnesty International wrote in a statement.

“The government in Hong Kong also seems to be pursuing a broadened concept of ‘national security,’” it said.

Since taking office in July last year, Lam has faced several challenges, including an economy and financial markets left vulnerable by the US-China trade war.

Political tensions between democracy and independence activists resisting China’s tightening grip on the territory have continued to simmer.

In her speech, Lam gave her strongest warning yet against those seeking to split Hong Kong from China.

“Hong Kong will not tolerate any acts that advocate Hong Kong’s independence and threaten the country’s sovereignty, security and development interests,” she said.

“We will fearlessly take actions against such acts according to the law in order to safeguard the interests of the country and Hong Kong,” Lam wrote in a full text version of her address.

Senior Chinese officials, including Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平), have warned any undermining of national sovereignty is a “red line” that cannot be crossed.

Lam reiterated in her policy address that Hong Kong is duty-bound to enact laws to prohibit acts of treason, secession, sedition and subversion against the Chinese government, but only when there is a “favorable social environment.”

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