MANILA - A Hong Kong lawmaker on Friday slammed the autonomous territory's immigration office and described it as "totally controlled by Beijing" hours after the agency decided to deport former Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario over unclear reasons.
Del Rosario, among Filipino officials who hauled Beijing to a Hague-based arbitration court in 2013 and impleaded Chinese President Xi Jinping before the International Criminal Court in March, both over South China Sea incursions, was barred from entering China's special administrative region Friday morning due to unspecified "immigration reasons."
The 79-year-old diplomat was forced to fly back to Manila on the same day, after being held at the Hong Kong International Airport for 5 hours.
"It appears that Hong Kong is no longer a free and open international city," Hong Kong opposition lawmaker Ted Hui Chi-fung said in a statement Friday night.
"The Hong Kong immigration has become totally controlled by Beijing, contrary to what is promised in the Hong Kong Basic Law," he said.
Del Rosario, a bearer of a diplomatic passport, had flown to Hong Kong for a business meeting. He decried the immigration ban as a violation of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.
Article 40 of the convention provides that a diplomatic agent is entitled to "inviolability and such other immunities as may be required to ensure his transit or return" through a territory of a third state.
In his statement, the lawmaker noted that the diplomat's deportation came weeks after former Philippine Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, who filed the case against Xi along with Del Rosario and a group of fishermen, was also barred from entering Hong Kong.
Hui had also slammed the "barbaric" ban against Morales in May when the former magistrate was held at the airport while traveling with her family.
The lawmaker also warned that deportations and the passage of a bill that allows offenders to be "extradited to Mainland China" could "smash Hong Kong’s international reputation into pieces."
"If this bill passes, cases like Del Rosario and Morales could be easily elevated and they could be accused of having committed an offense in China and be arrested while in Hong Kong," he said.
"This will allow the Hong Kong government to send them to Mainland China for trial," he said.
The extradition bill sparked mass protests in the autonomous territory earlier this month as thousands of Hong Kong residents and workers trooped to the streets around legislative buildings to call for the rejection of the bill.
The protests were seen as the biggest mass rallies in Hong Kong since Britain returned it to Chinese rule in the 90s.