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HONG KONG — The Hong Kong government has declined to renew the visa of a journalist for The Financial Times, a move that would result in his de facto expulsion and deepen concerns about the deterioration of media freedom in the semiautonomous Chinese city.
The Financial Times said on Friday that the Hong Kong government gave no reason for the decision not to renew a work visa for Victor Mallet, the newspaper’s Asia news editor.
“This is the first time we have encountered this situation in Hong Kong, and we have not been given a reason for the rejection,” the newspaper said in a statement.
Hong Kong immigration authorities did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Mr. Mallet is first vice president of the Hong Kong Foreign Correspondent’s Club, and was the organization’s main spokesman in August, when it hosted a talk by a Hong Kong independence advocate that was harshly criticized by the local government and mainland Chinese officials.
Mainland China regularly punishes foreign journalists and media organizations by denying resident work visas to reporters and editors. But Hong Kong, a former British colony that returned to Chinese control in 1997, has far greater protections for civil liberties. The plans to eject Mr. Mallet have further blurred the line between Hong Kong and mainland China, human rights advocates said.
“This is unprecedented,” said Maya Wang, a senior China researcher for Human Rights Watch. “We expect foreign journalists to have this kind of visa rejection happen in China, but it has never happened in Hong Kong because Hong Kong has a tradition until recent years of respect for free speech.”
In August, the Foreign Correspondent’s Club hosted a talk by Andy Chan, the head of a political party that called for Hong Kong’s independence from China. The Hong Kong government said that it planned to ban Mr. Chan’s tiny political party, the Hong Kong National Party, under a colonial-era law that allows the prohibition of groups for reasons of national security, public safety or public order.
Officials from Hong Kong and the Chinese central government criticized the move. Leung Chun-ying, who was the city’s top official from 2012 to 2017, went further. He likened the move to hosting supporters of “racism, anti-Semitism or Nazism” and said the Hong Kong government should review the lease of the F.C.C.’s clubhouse in a historic, publicly owned building in central Hong Kong.
Mr. Mallet said during Mr. Chan’s talk that the club considered it a “normal event” involving an important news story in Hong Kong.
“The fact that this lunch seems to have become far from normal and has generated such exceptional interest in Hong Kong and around the world I think tells us more about the political climate in Hong Kong and in Beijing than it does about the F.C.C.,” he said.
Last month Hong Kong banned Mr. Chan’s party. Under the law a person who claims to be an office holder of the party could be imprisoned for up to three years, and anyone who provides a place for the group to meet could be imprisoned for up to a year for a first offense.