The Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Hong Kong expresses grave concern at the Hong Kong government’s decision to bar Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, from entering the territory. Roth was set to hold a news conference Jan. 15 at the FCC to release the rights group’s yearly report, which is critical of the Chinese government.
Roth, in a tweet, said he was not given an explicit reason for being unable to enter the city when he landed at Hong Kong International Airport. He was turned back and instead will launch the report in New York. Immigration authorities, in response to media inquiries, said that they cannot comment on individual cases.
The decision to deny Roth entry into Hong Kong follows a number of other cases that the FCC has been closely following, including that of a photography professor at a U.S. university, Matthew Connors, who was barred from entering Hong Kong earlier this month. Connors had been covering the protests and unrest in Hong Kong.
The FCC is concerned that the Hong Kong government is using the immigration department to act punitively against organisations and media representatives it does not agree with, which is a violation of the commitment to free expression and free speech in Hong Kong law. The immigration department’s lack of an explanation for Roth’s denial of entry is similar to their response after Victor Mallet, the former Asia news editor of the Financial Times and then 1st vice president of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club, was denied entry into Hong Kong in 2018. At the time, the FCC warned that this sort of treatment and lack of explanation appeared to be making a weapon of visas and violated press freedom rights in Hong Kong law, yet was assured that this wasn’t the case and that Hong Kong still upholds these values.
The FCC will continue to advocate for unfettered access for the media to freely cover the unrest in Hong Kong. As the Secretary for Home Affairs said recently in response to a question from a legislator, press freedom is “Hong Kong’s core value protected by the Basic Law and is the fundamental right enjoyed by the people of Hong Kong.”
He added: “The Government is firmly committed to safeguarding and respecting press freedom, and providing a suitable environment in which the media could exert its function as the fourth estate.” We call on the Hong Kong government to honour this promise.