【明報專訊】VICTOR Mallet, the first vice-president of the Foreign Correspondents' Club (FCC) and the Financial Times' Asia News Editor, applied for renewal of his work visa in Hong Kong last month. His application was rejected. Many people link the incident with the speech given by Andy Chan, convener of the Hong Kong National Party, which was hosted by Mallet.
The Financial Times has published an editorial expressing regret at the Mallet incident. Many Hong Kong and international associations of correspondents have also pleaded with the government to overturn the decision. The UK, US and European Union have published statements expressing concern over freedom of the press and free speech in Hong Kong, while the UK Foreign Office has demanded that the Hong Kong government offer an "urgent explanation". Meanwhile, the Office of the Commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Hong Kong (FMCOPRC) has stressed that the HKSAR government has the power to decide whether to issue a visa in accordance with the law, and that foreign countries have no right to interfere in the matter.
The HKSAR government has reiterated its long-standing stance and stressed that it will not comment on specific immigration cases. However, most people have linked the incident to the FCC's invitation to Andy Chan, convener of the Hong Kong National Party. One would be deceiving others and oneself to suggest that the two incidents are not related. The Hong Kong National Party advocates Hong Kong's independence, and the government has invoked the Societies Ordinance to ban it. The FCC invited Chan to make the speech before the ban came into effect. It is understood that the FMCOPRC once contacted the FCC and demanded that the FCC reconsider the invitation, but the FCC declined. The matter became a diplomatic incident the moment the Ministry of Foreign Affairs interfered. The Mallet incident only served to provoke an even greater diplomatic storm. It is unknown to outsiders whether the SAR government's refusal to renew Mallet's work visa involved even more complicated diplomatic issues. However, it is obvious that the diplomatic storm kicked up by Chan's speech continues to smoulder.
From a legal point of view, the FCC had the right to invite Andy Chan to make a speech, and the SAR government had no legal tools to stop it from happening. Likewise, the SAR government has the right not to explain why Mallet's work visa has not been renewed. After all, all governments have the power to decide whether to issue a visa to someone without offering an explanation. This is the international norm, to which the British colonial government was not an exception. A Taiwanese expert has mentioned that between 1956 and the mid-1980s, the British colonial government's policy for Taiwan-Hong Kong relations was primarily dependent on cross-strait relations and what was necessary for the Sino-British relations, using "border control and societies control measures". However, what is legally permissible is not necessarily politically prudent. Both the FCC's invitation to Chan to make a speech and the HKSAR government's handling of the matter have to be examined from the perspective of realpolitik to see whether they are in Hong Kong's interests.
With the profound changes in the international arena, Hong Kong is faced with increasing pressure to consider the national interest. For Hong Kong to have more room for political manoeuvre, it is necessary to have more legal tools to handle the national security issue. Article 23 of the Basic Law has now become "a necessary evil". The aim is to make sure that the government and all people do everything by the book and avoid exploiting the grey area.
with pinpoint accuracy : if sth is done with pinpoint accuracy, it is done exactly and in exactly the right position
smoulder : If a problem or unpleasant situation smoulders, it continues to exist and may become worse at any time
by the book : following rules and instructions in a very strict way