Hong Kong bars British editor from entering city following visa ban

Victor Mallet ‘attempted to enter Hong Kong on Thursday as a visitor but was turned away at the border after several hours of questioning by immigration officers,’ a media report said. (Reuters)
Updated 09 November 2018

Hong Kong bars British editor from entering city following visa ban

  • Hong Kong’s government said on Friday it does not comment on individual immigration cases
  • Authorities have not said why Victor Mallet’s work visa was not renewed

HONG KONG: Hong Kong barred the Asia news editor of the Financial Times from entering the city as a visitor, the newspaper said, after authorities refused to renew his work visa in October, raising questions about the city’s commitment to free speech.
Victor Mallet “attempted to enter Hong Kong on Thursday as a visitor but was turned away at the border after several hours of questioning by immigration officers,” the Financial Times said.
Mallet did not comment further when contacted by Reuters.
Hong Kong’s government said on Friday it does not comment on individual immigration cases.
“In handling each immigration case, the Immigration Department will act in accordance with the laws and policies, and decide whether the entry will be allowed or refused after careful consideration of circumstances of each case,” the government said in an emailed statement.
Analysts have cited the FT editor’s case among other examples of Hong Kong officials taking a tough line on perceived critics and dissent in the former British colony.
On Thursday, a prominent Chinese dissident writer, Ma Jian, said on Twitter that he was told by a Hong Kong arts center that it would no longer host two of his talks as part of the Hong Kong International Literary Festival.
In Mallet’s case, the government declined to renew his work visa last month after a speech he hosted at the Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents’ Club (FCC) by an independence activist was strongly condemned by officials in China and Hong Kong.
Authorities have not said why Mallet’s work visa was not renewed.
The decision shocked many in the city’s international community and reignited a debate about the viability of promised freedoms in Asian financial hub.
China’s Foreign Ministry had urged the FCC to withdraw its invitation to Andy Chan, a founder of the pro-independence Hong Kong National Party, which was formally banned by Hong Kong authorities in September.
The FCC, however, refused to cancel the event saying it defended free speech, while neither endorsing nor supporting the views of its speakers.
Authorities in Beijing and Hong Kong have said the notion of independence violates the principle of “one country, two systems” under which the territory has been governed since Britain handed it back to China in 1997.
The principle promises Hong Kong a high degree of autonomy and freedoms not enjoyed elsewhere in China, rights which are enshrined in a mini-constitution known as the Basic Law.
The human rights situation in Hong Kong received unprecedented scrutiny this week from several foreign governments at a United Nations hearing.
On Thursday, the exiled Chinese author Ma Jian tweeted that the Tai Kwun arts center had canceled his events there.
The arts center, which was set up with government support, gave no immediate comment to Reuters.
Ma said he had been unable to find a Hong Kong publisher for his satirical novel, China Dream, dubbed by Hong Kong’s literary festival organizers as “Ma’s answer to President Xi Jinping’s goal of restored national greatness.”
“I’m a novelist, not an activist, and am attending the Festival to discuss my new novel, China Dream. My ‘politics’ are simple: I believe in free thought and free speech. Without them, life has no meaning,” Ma wrote on Twitter.
Ma is due to arrive in Hong Kong on Friday afternoon.

Arab News' 44th anniversary: The year's top headlines

Updated 45 min 38 sec ago

Arab News' 44th anniversary: The year's top headlines

  • Arab News celebrates its 44th anniversary on Saturday
  • Throughout this year, Arab News has seen a significant increase in readership in the Kingdom and around the world

JEDDAH: Arab News celebrates its 44th anniversary on Saturday as the biggest English-language daily in the Kingdom with a fast-rising readership and a commitment to maintaining the quality journalism that has been a bedrock of the paper during its long history.
Throughout this year, Arab News has seen a significant increase in readership in the Kingdom and around the world, with new digital and print offerings, including the launch of the Pakistan edition, spearheading the newspaper’s global and digital expansion. A series of online and print elements — including Road to 2030, The Face, The Space, The Case and The Startup — draws attention globally and nationally.

The collection of top headlines from the past year highlights a significant period in the newspaper's history. From the exclusive interview of Egypt’s Pope Tawadros II to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s role at the Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh to the Winter at Tantora festival in Al-Ula, the past year has brought a string of major stories that have cemented the newspaper’s reputation for first-class journalism.
A look back at the Arab News coverage that made headlines this year.


Women driving
June 24, 2018: The General Directorate of Traffic issued driver’s licenses to 10 women after a royal decree issued by King Salman in September 2017 announced the end of a decades-long ban on women driving. An iconic image of a Saudi woman driving by New Yorker magazine illustrator Malika Favre, commissioned by Arab News for the cover of its souvenir edition on June 24, was shared around the world. The design won two Awards of Excellence at this year’s Society for News Design honors. The cover image was also recognized in the international design awards run by HOW magazine. The end of the driving ban is a historic move that sends a clear message to the world that changes in Saudi Arabia under Vision 2030 are real and significant.

Hajj coverage
August 19, 2018: As part of Arab News CSR initiatives, we gave out tens of thousands of umbrellas to protect pilgrims from the sun during Hajj season. An Arab News team also covered all the major days of Hajj, including Mina, Arafat and Mudalifah. A total of 2,371,675 pilgrims performed Hajj in 2018, according to the General Authority for Statistics. The pilgrims who came from outside Saudi Arabia numbered 1,758,722, while 612,953 came from inside the Kingdom. Saudi Arabia invited more than 800 foreign media representatives to cover Hajj events.

Future Investment Initiative
Oct. 23, 2018: At least 25 deals worth more than $50 billion in the energy and transportation sectors were signed at the Future Investment Initiative (FII) conference in Riyadh. The three-day event was attended by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Jordan’s King Abdullah and Pakistani PM Imran Khan, as well as other leaders from the GCC and worldwide.

Pope Tawadros II
Dec. 4, 2018: In an exclusive interview with Arab News Editor-in-Chief Faisal J. Abbas, Tawadros II, the 118th Pope of Alexandria, Patriarch of the See of St. Mark and leader of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, described events in Syria and Iraq, with the rise of Daesh, as “very painful,” and pointed out that Christians who had to seek asylum abroad were among the most affected. However, his concerns extended beyond the plight of Christians alone, and he argued that a “weakening of Arab countries” means “the weakening of Arabs as a whole … Christians and Muslims alike.”

Formula E
Dec. 13, 2018: The mega Formula E event — held in the historic Saudi town of Ad Diriyah, a UNESCO World Heritage Site — revolutionized motorsports by using only electric race cars. Officially known as the ABB FIA Formula E Championship, the event was the first held in Saudi Arabia and the region, reflecting the Kingdom’s goal of hosting major events, and promoting them domestically and globally. The three-day event also hosted some of the world’s top entertainers, including Jason Derulo, Enrique Iglesias, Amr Diab and One Republic. Thousands of fans attended the motorsports tournament, concerts, entertainment and cultural activities.

Winter at Tantora
Dec. 20, 2018: The northern Saudi city of Al-Ula hosted a special season of events and festivities, as the Royal Commission for the Governorate of Al-Ula organized Winter at Tantora. The cultural festival was designed to showcase the wonders of Al-Ula, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, to the world. It included cultural events, a spectacular equine experience, and musical performances by some of the world’s greatest artists, such as Saudi singer Mohammed Abdo, Italian opera singer Andrea Bocelli, Iraqi musicians Ilham Al-Madfai and Kazem Al-Saher, Bahrain’s Rashed Al-Majid and Iraqi artist Majed Al-Mohandes.

Pope Francis in Abu Dhabi
Feb. 3, 2019: It was a historic day in Abu Dhabi when Pope Francis became the first pontiff to visit a Gulf country. He was received by Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan. The papal visit included a tour of Sheikh Zayed Mosque, and an interfaith meeting with Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Ahmed Al-Tayeb. Later, Pope Francis said he returned home from a country that had risen from the desert in the hope that others could be equally successful. Tens of thousands of Christian and Muslims leaders gathered to hear a 25-minute homily delivered by the pope.

MBS Asia tour
Feb. 17, 2019: Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s tour of Pakistan, India and China made headlines around the globe. Saudi authorities praised the outcome of the Pakistan leg of the trip, with deals worth $20 billion signed by the two nations. During his visit to India, Crown Prince Mohammed said that he expects Saudi Arabia’s investments in the country to be worth $100 billion in the next two years. The crown prince also witnessed the signing of agreements in investment, tourism, housing and information and broadcasting. In China, he met with Vice Premier Han Zheng and attended the China-Saudi cooperation forum. That was followed by a ceremony to sign agreements on petroleum, chemicals, investment, renewable energy and anti-terrorism.

50:50 by 2020
March 7, 2019: The Arab News newsroom philosophy is based on gender equality. The proportion of women working for the newspaper rose to more than a third in 2018, moving closer to the goal of a 50:50 gender-balanced newsroom by 2020, according to the Arab News “gender equality meter,” published in March. Arab News last year outlined its aim to become the first newspaper in Saudi Arabia to have a gender-balanced newsroom. The announcement was made at the opening of the inaugural Arab Women Forum at King Abdullah Economic City. The drive, referred to internally as the “50:50 by 2020” initiative, covers all the newspaper’s bureaus and areas of operation.

Sharqiah Season
March 14, 2019: The Sharqiah Season, a 17-day festival in Eastern Province cities, delivered extensive entertainment for both Saudis and visitors to the Kingdom. Key events included the Red Bull Air Race and the Formula 1 H20 boat event, as well as concerts by Akon, Deadmau5, Pitbull and French Montana.

First anniversary of cinemas
April 18, 2019: Arab News marked the first anniversary of cinemas opening in Saudi Arabia. As part of the country’s Vision 2030 program of reforms, Saudi Arabia lifted a 35-year ban on cinemas, paving the way for theater chains to unveil ambitious plans to open hundreds of cinemas across the nation in the next decade. The Saudi government announced that SR131 billion ($35 billion) will be invested in cinema and theater construction, mainly in Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam. The Kingdom’s cinema industry — which will serve a population of more than 32 million, most of whom are under the age of 30 — is expected to generate $1.5 billion in annual revenue by 2030.