The Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Hong Kong, on 27 August 2020, received a second response to a letter to the Director of Hong Kong Immigration, Au Ka-wang, asking for answers about the system for issuing journalist visas in Hong Kong. However, just like the earlier response of August 14, this latest letter still did not answer — or even address — our very specific questions about widely reported changes to the visa policy for working journalists since the imposition of the national security law.
This continued inability or unwillingness to answer specific questions is deeply troubling, and can only lead to increased speculation that the reports of a new visa procedure for foreign journalists must indeed be accurate.
This comes amid reports of a work visa being denied for a Hong Kong publication after a months-long wait and further reports of unusual processing delays affecting foreign correspondents for a number of publications that in some cases have prevented journalists from working in Hong Kong. It also follows earlier suggestions by the Chinese government that more foreign journalists could face repercussions in response to U.S. actions.
The FCC again states its strong opposition to undermining press freedom by delaying or denying visas to journalists working in the city, using journalists’ visas as a weapon in international disputes or taking action against journalists for decisions made by their home countries.
We again call on Hong Kong authorities, as we did in our two open letters, to urgently answer our questions regarding the issuing of visas:
1) Is there now a national security unit handling foreign media visas applications within the immigration department, as press reports have said?
2) What particular criteria are applied when a journalist’s visa application is being considered?
3) Are journalists being singled out for special treatment that is delaying the granting or renewal of work visas?
4) Does the immigration department recognise that journalism involves multi-tasking so a change of duties, for example from desk editing to reporting, does not breach the terms of the visa?
Hong Kong thrives on the free flow of information. Its role as a global financial hub depends on its reputation as an international centre that respects press freedom. Restricting journalists in Hong Kong through their visa status and interfering with the ability of the press here to report freely will only damage Hong Kong’s reputation on the world stage.
2 September, 2020
Post Date: September 2, 2020