Hong Kong Bars Dissident

Funeral becomes rallying point for Chinese dissidents.

2011.01.26
hongkong-dissident-funeral-.jpg Protests are held over the refusal to allow activist Wang Dan to enter Hong Kong for the funeral of a Chinese dissident, Jan 26, 2011.
AFP

Hong Kong authorities have refused to allow exiled pro-democracy activist Wang Dan to enter the territory ahead of the funeral of popular democratic politician Szeto Wah, who died of lung cancer this month.

"It has been rejected," Wang told Hong Kong's Cable TV on Wednesday. "No reason was given."

Wang, a former student leader in the 1989 protests on Tiananmen Square, had applied to visit Hong Kong for Friday's memorial event for Szeto Wah.

The decision came despite Beijing's promise that the former British colony would be granted a greater degree of freedom than most Chinese cities after the 1997 return to Chinese rule.

Wang, who was imprisoned after the military suppression of the student movement in 1989 and later exiled to the United States, said the visit had no political motive.

He has been refused permission to return to mainland China, and to visit Hong Kong, on a number of occasions.

Political movement

Szeto's funeral has become a rallying point for Chinese dissidents from the 1989 protests, including Wu'er Kaixi, who is also hoping to visit Hong Kong this week.

Wu'er told Cable Television he had not heard about his application but he thought the chances were not good now that Wang had been declined permission to visit.

Hong Kong's Immigration Department said in a statement that it would not comment on individual cases.

Overseas pro-democracy activist Qin Jin, who is currently living in Taiwan, said the authorities possibly feared that Szeto's funeral could spark a political movement.

"The funeral of Hu Yaobang gave rise to the 1989 pro-democracy movement," Qin said. "Is that what the Hong Kong authorities fear?"

Freedom

Democratic politicians in Hong Kong said the decision would tarnish the city's image of political freedom and openness.

The Hong Kong authorities have been known to blacklist activists and critics of China at sensitive times, including the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Szeto died earlier this month at the age of 79 after a battle with lung cancer.

A long-time democratic politician and activist for political change inside China, he was little known in mainland China until his death, when news of the funeral arrangements spread via the Internet.

"Szeto Wah, even though I have never seen you, I extend to you my greatest respects," wrote one online commenter.

Three parts

The funeral will be held on Friday at the Baptist church in Kowloon's Tsimshatsui district.

"We will be dividing the ceremony into three parts because of the large number of people who are expected to pay their respects," said officiating minister Chu Yiu-ming.

Lee Cheuk-yan, who is acting as chairman of the Patriotic Alliance in Support of Democratic Movement in China, which Szeto founded, said representatives of 14 different countries would attend, as well as a number of Hong Kong government officials.

Lee said it was still unclear whether Hong Kong chief executive Donald Tsang would pay his respects or not.

Reported in Mandarin by Li Tong and Xin Yu, and in Cantonese by Grace Kei Lai-see. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.



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