A Japanese journalist has been barred from entering Hong Kong without clear reasons and repatriated, a Japanese newspaper said, raising concerns about shrinking press freedom in Hong Kong.
The Japan Times, a prominent English-language newspaper, reported on Friday that a freelance journalist was taken to a room by officials after arriving at the city’s airport on Thursday night. Yoshiaki Ogawa, known for his coverage of financial centers, was later interviewed for about an hour, the report said.
Ogawa said officials simply told him he could not get permission to stay in the city and was sent back to Tokyo on Friday, the report said.
It “really made me feel how Hong Kong has changed … it was unimaginable before,” the report quoted Ogawa as saying.
Hong Kong’s immigration department did not confirm the incidents in an emailed response to The Associated Press and declined to comment on individual cases. It added that the department handles every immigration case in accordance with law and policy.
The denial of entry has raised concerns about an erosion of press freedom in Hong Kong, which was once a hallmark of the former British colony.
Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997 and was promised to retain its rights to Western-style freedoms for 50 years after the handover, but its press has shrunk sharply following the enactment of a national security law imposed by Beijing in 2020.
The law came after pro-democracy protests in 2019 and prosecuted many of Hong Kong’s leading activists, including Jimmy Lai, the founder of the now-defunct Apple Daily, and other top executives at the paper.
The Japan Times stated that Ogawa has been closely following Hong Kong issues since 2014 and has reported on the 2019 movement, but he does not plan to write any articles about Hong Kong during his trip.
Media rights group Reporters Without Borders tweeted Friday that it was appalled by what happened to Ogawa.
According to the latest World Press Freedom Index released by the organization in May, Hong Kong ranked 140th out of 180 countries and regions. Hong Kong has experienced unprecedented setbacks since the introduction of the National Security Law in 2020, the regulator said.
In January, the Hong Kong Journalists Association reported that Japanese photographer Michiko Kiseki would be denied entry in late 2022. The association said she reported on the 2019 protests and was questioned by authorities over her exhibition in Japan.