Honest Hong Kong Journalist Visa Denial

By Shaun Tan

By Shaun Tan

Founder, Editor-in-Chief, and Staff Writer


Picture Credit: TravelingOtter

Immigration Department

The Government of the Hong Kong

Special Administrative Region

Dear Applicant,


We regret to inform you that your application to renew your work visa has been unsuccessful. Every year, the immigration department receives many visa applications from foreign journalists, and having your visa approved or renewed is a privilege, not a right.


The government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) respects the role of a free and independent press. However, this role comes with an obligation to be fair and balanced. In our estimation, you have consistently failed to demonstrate the fairness and balance we would expect of a professional journalist. Your report on the district council elections last November, for example, made the pro-democracy camp appear inordinately popular by focusing disproportionately on the 17 districts that it won, rather than on the one district it lost. Conversely, when it comes to the establishment, your stance is one of unmitigated hostility. That same report downplayed the achievements of the establishment camp by focusing disproportionately on the 17 districts that it lost, rather than on the one district it won.


This lack of fairness and balance is also apparent in the manner you conduct your duties, a manner most unlike that of many of your fellow journalists, including those from Xinhua and China Daily. Whilst we understand that it is the role of a journalist to offer opinions and critiques and to ask questions, your opinion pieces are unnecessarily opinionated, your critiques unnecessarily critical, and your questions unnecessarily inquisitive.


Being independent does not mean you operate in a vacuum: as well as abiding by professional ethics, journalists also have other responsibilities, including the responsibility to help maintain stability and harmony, the responsibility to support the government, and the responsibility to tell the China Story well. You have shirked these responsibilities in your selfish desire to report on things as you see them and to tell your readers what you think they should know, with reckless disregard for how this might reflect on those in power. On many occasions, you have strayed from the boundaries of press releases instead of just adapting them. You have also worked to undermine public confidence in the HKSAR government by asking officials questions they are either unable to answer or can only give really stupid answers to. There is no place here for journalists who do not appreciate their responsibilities to society and who care only about pursuing the truth wherever it leads.


Furthermore, despite being effectively a guest here, you have repeatedly interfered in China’s internal affairs, including by writing stories about Hong Kong and China likely to influence people’s opinions of Hong Kong and China. Since your arrival here, you have also been involved with a number of subversive groups, including the Foreign Correspondents’ Club and the Hong Kong Journalists Association.


I hope you understand that under the circumstances we can no longer justify extending you the privilege of a work visa, especially when there are so many other foreign journalists, including those from Cambodian, Singaporean, and North Korean state media, who will not abuse this privilege.


I trust this clarifies the matter,



For the Director of Immigration