BEIJING (AP) — A Taiwanese academic said he was barred from entering Hong Kong on Friday after he flew to the territory to speak at a conference commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy movement.
Tseng Chien-yuan said he was told by immigration officers that the central government in Beijing had issued an order banning him from the city. Hong Kong is a former British colony that retains a high degree of autonomy, including its own immigration department, although responsibility for defense and foreign affairs falls to Beijing.
"I'm not a politician, I'm not a security threat, I'm not a terrorist," Tseng said in a phone interview from Taiwan. "It's no great loss for me, but I think it's a stain on Hong Kong's reputation as a home for academic freedom."
Tseng's rejection underscores China's extreme sensitivity toward commemorations of the bloody crushing of the 1989 student-led movement centered on Beijing's Tiananmen Square. While China allows no public discussion of the event, it is remembered each year with huge rallies in Hong Kong in a sign of the territory's concern over the preservation of its own democratic values.
Hong Kong Secretary of Security Lai Tung-kwok told reporters he couldn't comment on individual cases but that officers had to turn away those who didn't meet "relevant requirements."
Tseng had been scheduled to deliver a lecture at the June Fourth 25th Anniversary International Conference being held on Friday and Saturday at the City University of Hong Kong. He said his topic was the outlook for democratic development in mainland China under president and Communist Party leader Xi Jinping, whose first year in office has seen a crackdown on dissidents and civil society advocates.
Pro-democracy Hong Kong legislator Lee Cheuk-yan told reporters that Tseng's rejection was a worrying extension of the bans already placed on former leaders of the Tiananmen movement such as Wang Dan and Wu'er Kaixi.
"But this time it's more outrageous. Even a Taiwan scholar is not allowed in. It's affecting Hong Kong's international image," Lee said.
Associated Press writer Kelvin Chan in Hong Kong contributed to this report.