"We are shocked and deeply concerned over the decision by the Hong Kong authorities to refuse a work visa renewal for Victor Mallet, Asia News Editor for the Financial Times," said Chris Yeung of the Hong Kong Journalists Association.
He said the denial of a visa to Mallet "sets a terrible precedent for Hong Kong's reputation as a place where the rule of law applies and where freedom of speech is protected by law." China has defended its decision to deny a new work visa for Mallet, who is vice president of the Foreign Correspondent's Club. Authorities have criticized the club for hosting a talk in August 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, allowing it to retain its limited democracy and rights to assembly and free speech that are denied on the Chinese mainland.
Rights groups have called the visa rejection the latest sign of Beijing's expanding restrictions on the territory, including legal cases brought against pro-democracy legislators and organizers of large-scale anti-government protests in 2014.
The London-based Financial Times said in a statement that it was given no reason why Mallet's application was rejected. Other groups that protested the decision included the Hong Kong Independent Commentators Association, International Federation of Journalist, Hong Kong Journalism Educators for Press Freedom and Reporters Without Borders.
The Foreign Correspondent's Club is an institution dating back more than 75 years ago to when Hong Kong was a British colony. At the Aug. 14 talk at the FCC, Mallet introduced Hong Kong National Party leader Andy Chan by acknowledging official criticism while citing the territory's tolerance for dissent.