Britain Concerned Over Hong Kong Rights

HONG KONG (AP) -- Britain has expressed concern over freedom of speech in its former colony Hong Kong after authorities refused to renew the work visa of a senior editor of the Financial Times.

A statement dated Friday said Britain has asked for an explanation as to why Victor Mallet's visa renewal application was rejected.

"Hong Kong's high degree of autonomy and its press freedoms are central to its way of life, and must be fully respected," the Foreign and Commonwealth Office said in a statement posted on its website.

Mallet is a vice president of Hong Kong's Foreign Correspondents' Club, which recently drew criticism from the authorities for hosting a talk by the leader of a now-banned pro-Hong Kong independence party.

Hong Kong was promised semi-autonomy for 50 years as part of its 1997 handover from British rule.

Rights groups have called the visa rejection the latest sign of Beijing's expanding restrictions on the semi-autonomous Chinese territory.

The London-based Financial Times said in a statement that it was given no reason why Asia editor Mallet's application was rejected.

"This is the first time we have encountered this situation in Hong Kong," it said.

In response to a query from The Associated Press, Hong Kong's immigration department said it would not comment on individual cases but that it makes visa decisions in accordance with the law.

"In handling each application, the Immigration Department acts in accordance with the laws and prevailing policies, and decides whether to approve or refuse the application after careful consideration of individual circumstances of each case," it said in a statement.

(KA)