Over two months after a formal letter was sent to Hong Kong's Director of Immigration by solicitor Albert Ho, of Messrs Ho, Tse, Wai and Partners, enquiring into the reasons for Hong Kong's denial of entry to British human rights activist Benedict Rogers, the Director of Immigration has said "we do not feel it necessary to deal with the specific assertions" and "will not comment on or disclose information relating to any individual case".
Albert Ho, acting on behalf of Benedict Rogers, wrote to the Director of Immigration on 19 and 24 October 2017, following the decision by Hong Kong authorities to deny Mr Rogers entry to Hong Kong on 11 October.
In a reply dated 23 December, the Director of Immigration referred to his office's previous replies to Mr Ho on 23 October and 22 November, but added nothing. He simply reiterated that "a person may not land in Hong Kong without the permission of an officer of the Immigration Department unless he enjoys the right of abode in Hong Kong".
The Director of Immigration's refusal to provide further explanation is in contrast to the United Kingdom's practice. According to the British government's website, if someone is refused entry to the United Kingdom they are informed in writing why they have been refused entry, if they can appeal against the decision and when they will be removed from the UK.
Albert Ho said: "It is shameful to see that after more than two months, the Director still just gives a robotic statement asserting the authority of the Director in immigration control. All our specific questions are ignored. There is simply no further explanation as to why the Chief Executive of Hong Kong, Carrie Lam, says that Mr Rogers' case is a foreign affairs matter."
The decision to refuse entry to Benedict Rogers, a prominent British human rights activist and Deputy Chair of the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission, drew an immediate response from the British government, including a statement by the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson on 11 October, in which he said: "I am very concerned that a UK national has been denied entry to Hong Kong. The British government will be seeking an urgent explanation from the Hong Kong authorities and from the Chinese government." The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office to summon the Chinese Ambassador in protest the same day, and questions were raised in the House of Commons at both Prime Minister's Questions and Foreign Office Questions. The Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Mark Field wrote to Hong Kong's Chief Executive Carrie Lam, the Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow condemned the decision, and the Co-chair of the US Congressional Executive Commission on China, Congressman Christopher Smith, issued a strong statement.
Lord (Paddy) Ashdown, former Leader of Britain's Liberal Democrats and a Patron of Hong Kong Watch, who visited Hong Kong in late November, said:
"Every nation has the right to decide who can enter its territory, but in order to maintain public confidence such decisions should be made in a way that is transparent and justifiable, not one that is arbitrary and without good reason. The decision to deny entry to Benedict Rogers, followed by the refusal to provide an explanation of the reasons for doing so, only serves to undermine public, and international, confidence in Hong Kong's openness and rule of law."
Benedict Rogers, co-founder and Chair of Hong Kong Watch, a new London-based human rights advocacy organisation launched last month, said:
"I am extremely disappointed that the Director of Immigration has failed to explain why I was refused entry to Hong Kong on 11 October 2017. I lived and worked in Hong Kong for five years from 1997-2002, the first five years of Chinese rule, I had visited many times since 2002, and I was returning to visit old friends and meet new ones, to meet with people entirely privately, and simply to listen to Hong Kong people's perspectives on the situation in their city. I was not intending to engage in any public events or media interviews, and had already voluntarily given an undertaking that my visit would consist entirely of private meetings with friends and acquaintances. I have specifically asked whether the decision to refuse me entry on 11 October was a one-off incident or a long-term ban, and have received no answer to that question. The Director of Immigration's reply to my enquiries, through my lawyer, is extraordinarily unsatisfactory. I fear it is yet another illustration, one among many, of the erosion of Hong Kong's autonomy, basic freedoms and the rule of law."
For further enquiries please contact Albert Ho on email@example.com or +852-9020-3087 or Benedict Rogers on firstname.lastname@example.org or +44-7823-329664
Please see overleaf for a scanned copy of the Letter from the Department of Immigration