Statement on the Denial of Victor Mallet's Visa Renewal Application
1. The Progressive Lawyers Group (the "PLG") is deeply concerned by the recent denial of Victor Mallet's work visa renewal application (the "Denial"). Mallet, the Financial Times' Asia news editor, has been the vice-president of the Foreign Correspondents' Club , Hong Kong ("FCC") since October 2017. In August 2018, Mallet moderated a talk by pro-independence activist Andy Chan at the FCC, which the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs had tried to pressure the FCC to cancel. No explanation has been given by the Hong Kong Government for the Denial.
2. A free press is the cornerstone to a civil society, in which the government is held accountable to the people. A free press plays a key role in safeguarding the rule of law, which helps secure Hong Kong's economic success and long-term viability.
3. It is important to note that the Government is under a positive duty to uphold freedom of the press under Article 27 of the Basic Law. The permissible restriction to such freedom is very limited and can only be justified for the protection of national security or public safety, public order (ordre public), public health or morals, or the rights and freedoms of others. It must be stressed that the Government has not provided any reason for the Denial and hence it is questionable whether it could be justified at all.
4. The PLG is anxious that the Denial could send the disastrous message to foreign media outlets that they are no longer welcome in Hong Kong if they do not adhere to the Government's stance. Any forced retreat of foreign media outlets would be a tragic loss for Hong Kong and must be vigilantly guarded against.
5. Refusing the visa application of a prominent journalist without any justification sets a catastrophic precedent for the Government to censor the foreign press in Hong Kong arbitrarily. The PLG urges the Government to give its reason for the Denial in an open manner immediately. Any further silence would deepen the chilling effect and impress upon the world the capriciousness of the Hong Kong Government.
The Progressive Lawyers Group
8 October 2018