Hong Kong Leader Refuses To Explain Journalist Visa Denial

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam at the government headquarters in Hong Kong on October 9, 2018.Photo: Anthony WALLACE / AFP

 

Hong Kong’s leader Tuesday refused to say why the city had denied a visa to a leading Financial Times journalist, despite escalating demands for an explanation of the unprecedented challenge to freedom of the press.

Victor Mallet, the FT’s Asia news editor, and a British national angered authorities in Beijing and Hong Kong by hosting a speech at the city’s press club by Andy Chan, the leader of a tiny pro-independence political party, in August.

Chan’s party was later banned as Beijing cracks down on any pro-independence sentiment in the semi-autonomous city.

An application to renew Mallet’s work visa was refused and on Sunday he was given seven days to leave Hong Kong.

Facing questions for the first time since the visa denial emerged last week, Chief Executive Carrie Lam, who is appointed by a pro-Beijing committee, said the decision had been handed down by immigration authorities.

She said linking it to the Chan talk was “pure speculation”.

“As a rule — not only locally, but internationally — we will never disclose, the immigration department will not disclose, the individual circumstances of the case or the considerations of this decision,” Lam told reporters.

She refused to directly acknowledge the specifics of the speculation over why Mallet was denied the visa.

However, Lam said the government “will not tolerate any advocacy of Hong Kong independence and things that harm national security, territorial integrity, and developmental interests”.

She refused to comment on how Mallet could be linked to any of those potential threats when it was pointed out that he was not an independence advocate but had simply chaired a talk by Chan at the city’s Foreign Correspondents’ Club, which has also hosted talks by Chinese officials.

Asked whether journalists could now be punished for interviewing independence activists or writing about independence, Lam said she could give no guidance but insisted that freedom of reporting and expression were “core values”.

Pro-democracy lawmakers said Tuesday they would table a motion summoning Lam and the immigration chief to the legislature to explain.

 International concern

Hong Kong enjoys rights unseen on the mainland, including freedom of speech and the press, enshrined in an agreement made when the city was handed back to China by Britain in 1997.

But there are growing fears those rights are disappearing.

Beijing regularly denies visas to foreign journalists on the mainland but it has not been a tactic used in Hong Kong.

Britain, the United States, and the European Union have expressed concern, with Canada’s consulate in Hong Kong joining the list Tuesday.

The city’s most influential lawyers have demanded an explanation and Hong Kong’s American Chamber of Commerce warned curtailing press freedom could damage the city’s competitiveness.

A journalists’ alliance has handed over petitions with more than 15,000 signatures to the government calling for answers. The petitions have now grown to more than 20,000.

Mallet, who has not spoken publicly, said he was “very grateful” to those who had signed, in Facebook and Twitter posts Tuesday.

Political analyst Willy Lam told AFP it was “very likely” that instructions had come from Beijing to penalize those who were seen as advocating independence.

“(Carrie Lam) certainly can’t contradict orders given by Beijing, including in this case,” said Lam, a professor of China studies at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Some pro-Beijing figures have publicly welcomed the ousting of Mallet, including well-known commentator Wat Wing-yin who wrote in conservative newspaper Ta Kung Pao: “We only asked you to leave and did not execute you by shooting. That is already the most civilized of protests.”

AFP

Hong Kong Issues One Week Ultimatum For FT Journalist To Leave Country

Chris Yeung (C), Chairperson of the Hong Kong Journalist Association, stands next to Foreign Correspondents’ Club (FCC) president Florence de Changy (3rd R) and legislator Claudia Mo (2nd R) October 8, 2018, handing over petitions to the government calling for an explanation of its visa rejection of Financial Times journalist Victor Mallet. Photo: Anthony WALLACE / AFP

A leading Financial Times journalist has been given seven days to leave Hong Kong as a backlash mounted Monday against an unprecedented challenge to freedom of the press in the city.

Victor Mallet, the FT’s Asia news editor, and a British national, angered authorities in Beijing and Hong Kong by hosting a speech at the city’s press club by Andy Chan, the leader of a tiny pro-independence political party.

Chan’s party has since been banned as Beijing cracks down on any pro-independence sentiment in the semi-autonomous city.

Last week it emerged Mallet’s application for a renewal of his work visa had been rejected by Hong Kong immigration authorities.

On Monday the FT said Mallet had only been granted a seven-day visitor visa after returning to the city from a trip on Sunday.

Sources with direct knowledge of the situation told AFP that Mallet was questioned at immigration and was refused automatic entry.

British citizens are usually allowed into Hong Kong without a visa and are permitted to stay for 180 days under immigration rules.

The FT said immigration officials had provided no explanation for the shortened visitor visa.

“We continue to seek clarification from the Hong Kong authorities about the rejection of his work visa renewal,” said the paper, which has its regional headquarters in Hong Kong.

The FT’s editorial board had earlier described the decision to refuse Mallet a work visa as sending a “chilling message to everyone in Hong Kong”.

Lawyers hit back

In a strident speech in August at the city’s Foreign Correspondents’ Club (FCC), where Mallet serves as vice president, independence activist Chan attacked China as an empire trying to “annex” and “destroy” Hong Kong.

China’s foreign ministry had asked the club to pull the talk, but the FCC refused, arguing that all sides of a debate should be heard and that it hosted a variety of speakers, including Chinese officials.

Britain and the United States have expressed concern over the visa refusal and its impact on press freedom.

On Monday, a group of the city’s most influential lawyers also hit back.

“Such rejection calls for an explanation in light of its unprecedented nature and its profound impact on Hong Kong’s press freedom,” 30 lawyers said in a statement.

The group makes up the legal subsector of the electoral committee that chooses the city’s leader.

Another legal organization, the Progressive Lawyers Group, said: “Any forced retreat of foreign media outlets would be a tragic loss for Hong Kong and must be vigilantly guarded against”.

A journalists’ alliance handed over petitions with more than 15,000 signatures to the government Monday calling for an explanation of its visa rejection.

Hong Kong authorities have said they cannot comment on Mallet’s case.

China’s foreign ministry has said it supports Hong Kong “in handling the related matters in accordance with law”, and warned other countries not to interfere.

AFP

Sanusi Criticizes CBN’s Forex Regulations

forexNigeria’s former Central Bank Governor and now Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido, believes the country’s current exchange rate policies are doomed to fail.

In an interview with the London-based Financial Times, the Emir of Kano said that President Buhari’s endorsement of the Central Bank currency policies risks undermining the progress recorded in the fight against Boko Haram in the northeast and efforts aimed at tackling corruption.

The former Central Bank boss explained that Buhari’s government does not have the reserves to keep the naira-dollar rate at its official level.

Nigeria’s currency reserves presently stands at some 28.2 billion U.S. Dollars, covering far less than the standard 11 months import cover.

President Buhari has resisted the devaluation of the naira and had stated his support of the currency restrictions on 41 imported items, but says the Central Bank is expected to begin the easing of forex restrictions in the course of 2016.

 

Four Nigerian Banks Among Global Top 500 Banking Brands

Nigerian BanksFirst Bank of Nigeria ranks 320 in the 2016 top 500 banking brands ranking published by the Banker Magazine of Financial Times Group.

The bank moved up the scale 16 places from 336th position in 2015 to retain its number one banking brand ranking in Nigeria for the fifth consecutive year.

A press release from the country representative of the Banker Magazine in Nigeria, Kunle Ogedengbe, added that three other Nigerian banks also made the ranking.

They are Guaranty Trust Bank which moved to 389th position, Zenith Bank at 392nd, and United Bank for Africa at the 447th position.

Access Bank that made the ranking at 496th position in 2015 dropped from the 2016 ranking.

According to The Banker magazine, Nigeria has the highest brand value increase of $249m among the five countries in Africa that made the ranking.

Egypt moved up by $239m; Togo gained $134m while South Africa and Morocco lost $878mn and $213m.

The top 10 banks in the world are Well Fargo (USA); ICBC (China); China Construction Bank; Agricultural Bank of China; Chase (USA); Bank of China; Bank of America; Citi (USA); HSBC (UK); and Barclays (UK).

Shell Sells Some Oil fields In Nigeria

Shell_SaleRoyal Dutch Shell has sold some of four oil fields up for grabs in Nigeria, it said on Wednesday, as the oil and gas company pushes ahead with global asset sales to cut costs, Reuters News Agency is reporting.

Shell last year put up for sale its 30 percent shares in four oil blocks in the Niger Delta — Oil Mining Licence (OML) 18, 24, 25, 29 — as well as a key pipeline, the Nembe Creek Trunk Line.

“We have signed sales & purchase agreements for some of the Oil Mining Leases, but not all that we are seeking to divest,” a Shell spokesman said.

No details were available on the value of the deals signed, nor when the full process will be completed.

France’s Total and Italy’s Eni are also set to raise revenue from the sale of their 10 percent and 5 percent shares in the assets. The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) owns the remaining 55 percent.

The Financial Times on Wednesday reported that Shell is close to selling the assets for about $5 billion to domestic buyers.

In March, Reuters reported that Nigerian firms Taleveras and Aiteo made the highest bid of $2.85 billion for the biggest of the four oil fields, OML 29.

Shell, along with many other oil majors, is undergoing a broad process of asset sales across the world in an effort to cut costs and boost profits.

Other companies, including Total, Eni, Chevron and ConocoPhillips have sought to pull out of the oil-rich West African country which has been plagued by oil theft.

Syrian Electronic Army Hacks Financial Times

The Financial Times’ website and Twitter feeds were hacked on Friday, renewing questions about whether the popular social media service has done enough to tighten security as cyber-attacks on the news media intensify.

The Syrian Electronic Army, an online group that supports Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, was behind the incident which followed a phishing attack on the company’s email accounts, FT reported on its website.

The attack is the latest in which hackers commandeered the Twitter account of a prominent news organization to push their agenda. Twitter’s 200 million users worldwide send out more than 400 million tweets a day, making it a potent distributor of news.

“Twitter has become a big enough media outlet that they should provide better security for high-value accounts like the Associated Press, the FT and others,” said Mikko Hypponen, chief research officer with security software maker F-Secure.

Several attempts to reach Twitter for comment were unsuccessful. The company’s media relations team made no mention of the attack on its own Twitter feed.

Last month, the Syrian Electronic Army took control of the Associated Press’ official Twitter feed and sent out a bogus message that two explosions at the While House injured President Obama. The false tweet triggered a brief but steep sell-off in the U.S. financial markets.

That followed a spate of attacks in the past year by the group on Twitter accounts of other media organizations, including the BBC, National Public Radio, CBS, Reuters News and the satirical news website The Onion.

Over the past few years security experts have become increasingly vocal in calling for Twitter to introduce an additional safety measure, a two-step process to log in, that would help reduce breaches.

This type of authentication has long been used by governments and big corporations and in recent years some consumer Internet companies like Facebook Inc, Google Inc and Microsoft Corp have embraced it.

“You can get two-factor authentication for World of Warcraft, but you can’t get it for Twitter. Go figure,” Hypponen said, referring to the popular video game.

EXECUTION VIDEOS

In Friday’s hacking of the FT, the Syrian Electronic Army – which regularly targets media organizations it sees as sympathetic to Syria’s rebels – posted links on the newspaper’s Twitter feed to YouTube.

The video purports to show members of the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front Syrian rebel group executing blindfolded and kneeling members of the Syrian army.

The video could not be independently verified.

“Today various FT Twitter accounts and one FT blog (not more as previously stated) were compromised by hackers. We have now secured those accounts are working to resolve the issue as quickly as possible,” the FT, owned by Pearson Plc, said in an updated statement.

Stories on the FT’s website had their headlines replaced by “Hacked By Syrian Electronic Army” and messages on its Twitter feed read: “Do you want to know the reality of the Syrian ‘Rebels?'” followed by a link to the video.

The FT’s feeds dedicated to technology and commodities were among those affected.

Also on Friday, the Kyodo news agency reported that Yahoo Japan suspects up to 22 million of its 200 million user IDs may have been leaked. Kyodo said Yahoo Japan also detected an unauthorized attempt to access the administrative systems of its web portal.