The journalist is Financial Times Asia news editor Victor Mallet, the vice-president of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club in Hong Kong (FCCHK). The authorities gave no reason for their decision, made public on 5 October.
More than 21,000 people have already signed a petition in English and in Chinese – launched by RSF, the FCCHK, the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) and other groups – urging the authorities to rescind this highly unusual measure. Press freedom is usually respected in Hong Kong, a former British colony that is now a “special administrative region” of China.
Although the authorities gave no reason for their decision, it seems to be a reprisal for Mallet’s role as host of a luncheon organized by the FCCHK on 14 August at which the guest speaker was the founder of a Hong Kong independence party.
The FCCHK went ahead with the event despite threats from both the Chinese government and the Hong Kong authorities. The same day, the FCCHK was the victim of a false fire alert and a cyber-attack left its website inaccessible for several hours.
“Victor Mallet’s expulsion, if confirmed, would represent a further step backwards for press freedom, which has already been declining in recent years in Hong Kong,” said Cédric Alviani, the head of RSF’s East Asia bureau. “This administrative measure shows that the Chinese government’s existing policy of intimidating foreign journalists within China is now being extended to Hong Kong.”
The annual report that the HKJA published in July said press freedom had continued to fall during the past year in Hong Kong. Originally placed 18th when RSF launched the World Press Freedom Index in 2002, Hong Kong is now ranked 70th out of 180 countries.