Hong Kong’s last governor, Chris Patten, has written to the city’s leader after she refused to confirm he would not be barred from the territory by Chinese authorities.
During a Friday morning radio appearance, which came two days after a prominent British human rights activist was denied entry to the former British colony, Hong Kong’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, was repeatedly asked if Patten might also be turned away.
“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 said Beijing could block anyone if it considered their presence in Hong Kong to be a matter for the foreign affairs department in Beijing.
In an email to the Guardian, Patten, who is chancellor of Oxford University, said he had written to Lam about her comments and was waiting for a reply.
Referring to Britain’s pre-handover deal with China, which guaranteed Hong Kong’s way of life and high degree of autonomy from Beijing, Patten added: “I hope that she and her government still stand by the joint declaration and the basic law.”
Benedict Rogers, the deputy chair of the Conservatives’ human rights commission, was barred from entering Hong Kong on Wednesday. Following protests from London, China 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”.
Rogers has been a vocal critic of China’s tightening grip on Hong Kong and Patten called the refusal disturbing and inexplicable.
Lam attempted to assure the public during the radio interview, saying: “Decisions of this nature will not be taken arbitrarily; there must be clear evidence.” However, Rogers was given no reason or explanation as to why he was banned from Hong Kong.
In response to his case, local lawmakers and activists launched a campaign titled “Stop Repression in Hong Kong” to tackle the “worst political repression” since the return to Chinese rule.
Rogers has also announced plans to establish a new NGO in London focused on influencing policy-makers on Hong Kong issues.
The US congressman Chris Smith, co-chair of the congressional-executive commission on China, said Rogers’s case was “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,” he added. “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.”
Patten served as governor of Hong Kong from 1992 to 1997, and oversaw the handover of sovereignty to China. During his tenure he pushed for greater democratic reforms in the city, which were eventually rolled back by the Chinese government after Patten sailed out of Hong Kong on board the royal yacht Britannia on 1 July 1997.
He was openly despised by officials in Beijing at the time and was previously branded “a sinner of a thousand years” by a high-ranking Chinese official for his efforts to increase direct elections in the city’s legislature.
Patten has often returned to the territory, most recently in September when he called the jailing of the local democracy activist Joshua Wong a “political decision”.