An Australia-based academic has accused the Chinese Government of intimidation after staffers from a state media outlet stalked him for more than a week in Hong Kong.
- Kevin Carrico regularly criticises Beijing’s crackdowns in Tibet, Hong Kong and Xinjiang
- Pictures of Mr Carrico in Hong Kong were splashed on the front page of Wen Wei Po
- The story accuses Mr Carrico of making a “secret” visit to stir political unrest
Lecturer Kevin Carrico from Sydney’s Macquarie University, who is a permanent resident in Australia, said he first became suspicious when a woman who had been tailing him in a city mall almost followed him into a men’s toilet.
“I hopped off the escalator up from the toilet area and tried to take a photo of her — she immediately turned around 180 degrees and essentially rode the escalator backwards,” Dr Carrico said.
“That’s when it became apparent to me that I was being followed, and whoever was following me didn’t want their picture taken.”
But Dr Carrico only realised his followers worked for the Chinese Communist Party mouthpiece Wen Wei Po when the newspaper splashed pictures of him in Hong Kong on its front page on Monday.
The paper also published an article mocking Dr Carrico, who has regularly criticised the Chinese Government’s crackdowns in Tibet, Hong Kong and Xinjiang.
The story lists everyone that the academic met in Hong Kong, and accuses him of making a “secret” visit in order to stir political unrest in the city.
“Another overseas ‘pro-independence’ scholar comes to Hong Kong to teach ‘independence theory’ in the name of tourism!” it reads.
The article says the academic is a “supporter of Hong Kong independence” and accuses him of “ridiculing the Chinese Government.”
‘It won’t change what I do’
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Wen Wei Po — which is owned by the Chinese Communist Party’s liaison office in Hong Kong — often tries to politically embarrass or threaten Beijing’s political opponents in Hong Kong.
But Dr Carrico said it was unusual for the paper to target overseas academics, and the article was “another escalation” in the Chinese Government’s campaign to chip away at civil liberties in the city.
“Whether this [was] meant to make me feel unsafe about going back to Hong Kong, or whether it’s meant to signal to Hong Kong immigration that they should block me on my next visit — it’s difficult to establish,” Dr Carrico said.
“But it won’t change what I do, and I certainly hope that pressure from Beijing won’t lead Hong Kong to further erode its autonomy and begin blocking academics who are doing nothing more than talking to people and trying to understand the situation there.”
Hong Kong was returned to Beijing’s rule in 1997 under the “one country, two systems” agreement, which guaranteed its citizens freedom of the press and the right to protest.
But critics say Beijing has been intent on tightening its grip on the city.
In October, Hong Kong authorities refused to renew a work visa for the Asia news editor of the Financial Times newspaper Victor Mallet, after he hosted an event featuring a pro-independence activist.
Three leaders of the 2014 pro-democracy “Occupy” movement could also face jail time after being charged with “conspiracy” and “public nuisance”.
By Stephen Dziedzic