Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has demanded an “urgent explanation” from China after a British activist who has voiced concerns over eroding freedoms in Hong Kong was barred from entering the city on Wednesday.
Benedict Rogers, the deputy chairman of the Conservative Party’s human rights commission, arrived at Hong Kong airport on a flight from Bangkok but was turned away by immigration officials and put on a flight back to Thailand, he said.
He also told The Telegraph that he had previously been warned that he might be refused entry.
Mr Rogers has criticised Beijing for tightening its political grip in Hong Kong and also campaigned against the imprisonment of three pro-democracy activists, Joshua Wong, Nathan Law and Alex Chow.
Mr Johnson said in a statement: “I am very concerned that a UK national has been denied entry to Hong Kong.
“The British government will be seeking an urgent explanation from the Hong Kong authorities and from the Chinese government.”
Concerns are growing in Hong Kong over the loss of freedoms which are supposedly guaranteed under the ‘one country, two systems’ rule.
The principle was agreed by China and the UK before the city was handed over from British colonial rule in 1997.
“Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy, and its rights and freedoms, are central to its way of life and should be fully respected,” Mr Johnson added.
Mr Rogers told The Telegraph from Bangkok as he prepared to return to London that he was “deeply saddened” by his ordeal.
“What this says to me is that one country, two systems, if not quite dead, is dying or at least decaying fast,” he said.
“It is obvious that the decision to bar my entry was made not in Hong Kong but by the Chinese regime.”
Anson Chan, Hong Kong’s former chief secretary, said the decision to bar Mr Rogers from Hong Kong was the latest example of freedoms being restricted in the city.
“This is completely contrary to the law, letter and spirit of promises made to Hong Kong people of a high degree of autonomy,” she told The Telegraph.
Mr Rogers said he was told by a third party ahead of his visit that the Chinese embassy in the UK had indicated that they would block him from entering Hong Kong.
He sought to convince the embassy that his trip was a private visit, but Chinese officials in London were concerned that he might seek meetings with imprisoned democracy activists.
“It seems there was a fundamental misunderstanding by the Chinese embassy,” said Mr Rogers, who lived in Hong Kong between 1997 and 2002.
The embassy did not immediately respond to The Telegraph for comment.
In 2014, the Chinese embassy warned a delegation of eight British MPs from the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee that they would be denied entry to Hong Kong.
That visit was arranged during mass protests against Beijing’s meddling in the election of the city’s leaders.
The city has, on occasion, barred entry to dissidents.
China’s Communist leaders will hold their party congress next week.