The US State Department yesterday warned Hong Kong that denying American dissidents entry could limit free speech and association.
Reacting one day after veteran human rights activist Harry Wu Hongda was barred entry for the second time in two months, a department spokesman said Hong Kong's freedoms and rights under the Basic Law and other documents were "essential elements of Hong Kong's autonomy and its distinctiveness".
"We have noted to Hong Kong that their use of denials of entry could have the effect of limiting freedom of association and restricting the free flow of ideas," a spokesman said.
He added that the department had expressed "deep concern" to the Government.
The department refused to comment officially on Mr Wu's case and also noted "the right of the Hong Kong Government to make decisions of entry and exit".
Mr Wu was to have attended a Foreign Correspondents' Club panel on freedoms after the handover yesterday. Instead, he addressed the lunch forum via telephone.
The decision to bar his entry went against the principle of "one country, two systems" and did not reflect the will of Hong Kong citizens, who supported his right to visit, he said.
Mr Wu and another speaker, legislator Margaret Ng Ngoi-yee, also spoke out strongly against the prospect of anti-subversion laws, which they said would damage Hong Kong's freedoms.
The South China Morning Post understands that the US State Department was surprised at Mr Wu's latest rejection, having believed after discussions with the Hong Kong Government that he would be allowed in.
Mr Wu said he had initially been told by a Chinese diplomat in Washington that his visa had been approved - but later received notification from Hong Kong and Chinese officials it had been turned down as it was "considered not in the interests" of the SAR.
Usually US citizens have the right of entry without a visa to Hong Kong, but Mr Wu said the State Department had advised him to apply through the Chinese Embassy, given the special circumstances of his case.
Mr Wu was arrested and sentenced on spying charges in 1995 while
investigating labour conditions in Wuhan. He was later deported to the US, but his 15-year sentence was never revoked.
An American Falun Gong practitioner who flew to Hong Kong was refused entry, according to a Falun Gong spokeswoman yesterday, who said she believed the [group] member may have been blacklisted.
US passport-holder Dan Bi-han arrived on Saturday on a Cathay Pacific Airways flight from New York but was sent back on Sunday, Falun Gong spokeswoman Sharon Xu said.
"There must be a so-called blacklist somewhere," Ms Xu said.
A spokeswoman for the Immigration Department said she could not discuss individual cases.
A spokesman at the US Consulate General said Hong Kong officials notified the American Government over the weekend that a citizen had been denied entry.
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