Hong Kong Journalist's Visa Rejection Worrying, Chamber Says

(Bloomberg) -- Hong Kong’s decision to reject a working visa for a Financial Times journalist sends a worrying signal in a financial hub where freedom of the press is integral to the functioning of capital markets, the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong said.

Victor Mallet, Asia editor for the Financial Times, was refused a work visa extension without explanation, according to the FT. Mallet was the acting president of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Hong Kong, when he hosted a talk in August by the leader of a pro-independence political party despite the opposition of Chinese officials.

“This news has caught the international business community’s attention as Hong Kong has long been an open environment for journalists and editors, with many international media outlets housing their Asia headquarters in Hong Kong thanks to its rule of law, connectivity, and freedom of speech,” AmCham said in the statement. “Any effort to curtail press freedom in Hong Kong could damage Hong Kong’s competitiveness as a leading financial and trading center.”

“Without a free press, capital markets cannot properly function, and business and trade cannot be reliably conducted,” Tara Joseph, AmCham president and a former FCC president, was quoted as saying in the statement. AmCham is the largest business chamber in Hong Kong. It counts among its members Citigroup Inc. and Apple Inc.

Hong Kong’s government won’t tolerate advocacy for independence, Chief Executive Carrie Lam told reporters Tuesday, while declining to comment specifically on the Mallet case. Her administration has refrained from commenting on the visa rejection.

The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ local office defended the decision, saying in a statement published Oct. 6 that visa matters fall within a country’s sovereignty.

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