Benedict Rogers barred from entering Hong Kong, British Foreign Secretary speaks out in response

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On 11 October 2017, Benedict Rogers was denied entry into Hong Kong. The Right Honourable Boris Johnson MP immediately sought an explanation from Hong Kong’s authorities and the Chinese government.  

Benedict Rogers is the Chairman of the Trustees at Hong Kong Watch, and a co-founder of the Conservative Party’s Human Rights Commission. He has been a vocal critic of Chinese-ruled Hong Kong’s treatment of human rights and democracy activists.

After arriving from Bangkok, Rogers said immigration officials who were “perfectly friendly and polite” took him into a room and briefly asked him non-sensitive questions.

They denied him entry about an hour later without giving a reason. He was then escorted on to the next flight to Bangkok by half a dozen officials.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said London needed an explanation from Hong Kong and Beijing.

“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,” he said in a statement.

“Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy, and its rights and freedoms, are central to its way of life and should be fully respected.”

Rogers said he was “shocked” but he had been prepared because two days ago he had received, through an intermediary, a series of messages from the Chinese Embassy in London expressing displeasure with his visit.

“They actually described me, to my amazement, as a ‘grave threat to China-British relations’,” Rogers said.

Parliamentarians and lawmakers from around the world expressed concerns about Mr Rogers being denied entry to Hong Kong. Fiona Bruce MP, Chair of the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission said,

It is extremely disturbing that Ben Rogers has been refused entry to Hong Kong, after he gave a detailed and specific statement several days ago that his proposed visit would be an entirely private visit, where he would be meeting old friends and personal contacts, having lived in Hong Kong for five years previously, and after he undertook not to do any media or public engagements whilst there.

‘I have today raised my grave concerns about this incident with the responsible Minister at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and sought an assurance that he will take appropriate action to address these concerns with the relevant Chinese authorities as a matter of urgency.’

US Congressman Chris Smith, Chair of the bipartisan Congressional-Executive Commission on China, said:

‘This is another audacious blow to Hong Kong's autonomy. I am shocked and saddened that the Chinese government is warning foreigners about who they can meet in Hong Kong and then openly admitting complicity in barring Benedict Rogers from entry to the city.

Beijing claims that this is an ‘internal matter,’ but Hong Kong’s autonomy and freedoms are guaranteed by international treaty, so thus are a global concern—particularly as China seeks to actively erode pro-democracy voices in the city.

This incident is a breach of the Basic Law and it must send a chill through all corporations and countries that have an interest in maintaining Hong Kong’s freedoms. There must be a concerted effort to push back with the leaders in Beijing and the government in Hong Kong. We all have a stake in ensuring Hong Kong remains an open city, with the rule of law and guaranteed rights currently unavailable in Mainland China."

The Honourable Raymond Chan staged a protest in Hong Kong’s Legislative Council. Carrying a photograph of himself and Benedict Rogers and chanting slogans, he was eventually dismissed from the Chamber. "The government should come clear whether the barring is Beijing's doing," he said on his way out.

In response to these complaints, and pressure from London, the Chinese government have since made a complaint with the British government. They said Rogers had been barred because he was “very clear as to whether he intended to interfere with the affairs of the special administrative region and the independence of Hong Kong’s judiciary”.

Subsequently, in an interview on 13 October 2017, Chief Executive of Hong Kong Carrie Lam refused to deny that the former Governor of Hong Kong, Chris Patten, could also be denied entry to Hong Kong. “I can’t exclude any possibility because immigration matters will change depending on the case,” Lam said, adding that the government had the right to choose whom it admitted. She also admitted that the decision was made by the foreign affairs department in Beijing.

Benedict Rogers has expressed astonishment at the remarks of the Chinese government and Carrie Lam.

"I'm absolutely astonished that she could make such remarks", Rogers said. "I suppose one should give her credit for honesty and frankness because at least she and the government in Beijing have revealed very openly to the world that China is now in charge of, or certainly heavily influencing, Hong Kong's immigration policy".

"To me that means a very serious undermining of One Country, Two Systems." 

"One of the principles of One Country, Two Systems is Hong Kong people governing Hong Kong."

"In the Basic Law, immigration is absolutely within Hong Kong's remit. Denying me entry...that's serious enough".

Rogers insisted that he would have met his friends privately had he been allowed to enter Hong Kong, saying that not being able to do so meant the freedoms of his friends were also undermined.

Further Reading: Reuters, Telegraph, BBC, Guardian


NewsJohnny PattersonHRAF