Hong Kong Protests: U.S. Business Leaders Are Blocked From Entering Macau

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HONG KONG — Two American business leaders in Hong Kong have said they were stopped with no explanation from entering the neighboring Chinese city of Macau.

The news of their denial of entry on Saturday came at a tense moment in relations between China and the United States, as well as before planned protests in Hong Kong on Sunday.

The Hong Kong protests began in June over legislation, since scrapped, that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China, and have expanded to include a broad range of demands for police accountability and greater democracy.

Here’s the latest:

Tara Joseph and Robert Grieves, the president and the chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong, or AmCham, were separately denied entry on Saturday to Macau, a semiautonomous gambling enclave in southern China that is an hour’s boat ride from Hong Kong. The two said they were planning to attend an annual ball put on by the Macau branch of the business organization.

“We are puzzled as to why this happened, given this was simply a social occasion to celebrate AmCham Macau’s annual gathering,” said Ms. Joseph, an American citizen and a former journalist. She added that neither she nor Mr. Grieves were given a reason for the refusal.

She said she was detained by immigration officials in Macau for nearly two hours, and both she and Mr. Grieves were made to sign statements that they “voluntarily agreed not to pursue entry” into Macau. They then returned to Hong Kong.

“We hope that this is just an overreaction to current events and that international business can constructively forge ahead,” Ms. Joseph said. She added that the chamber has been “consistent in its support for the development of business in the Greater Bay Area,” using Beijing’s term of a new economic zone that links Hong Kong and Macau with mainland China.

Macau officials did not immediately respond to request for comment.

The Beijing-backed authorities in Macau have regularly prevented pro-democracy activists and journalists from Hong Kong from entering the city, but it is rare that such actions target members of the business community.

Beijing has vowed to retaliate against American interests after President Trump signed tough legislation last month that authorized sanctions on Chinese and Hong Kong officials responsible for human rights abuses in Hong Kong.

This month, Macau, a former Portuguese colony, is expected to celebrate the 20th anniversary of its return to Chinese control.

A major march organized by the Civil Human Rights Front, which in recent months has led large, peaceful marches, is expected to take place Sunday afternoon in Hong Kong.

The march is meant to coincide with the United Nations’ Human Rights Day and was authorized by the police. Until this month, the police had recently banned most protests and rallies, prompting concerns about unnecessary restrictions on freedom of assembly.

Yuli Riswati, an Indonesian photographer, writer and domestic worker in Hong Kong, was detained for nearly a month and deported earlier in December, according to a support group, apparently for overstaying her work visa.

She has reported on the Hong Kong protests for the city’s Indonesian community. At a rally on Saturday organized by supporters, she said over the phone that she and other detainees were subject to unfair treatment at the city’s immigration detention center where she was held.

The sense of terror “that is infiltrating all kinds of institutions in Hong Kong, as obvious with this case, has reached a level where it can happen to anyone,” said Elaine Ho, 42, an artist who attended the rally. “To see that even it’s reaching people who are already marginalized in Hong Kong’s society is completely unjust,” she added.

Hong Kong is home to nearly 380,000 migrant domestic workers, mostly women from the Philippines and Indonesia, who often toil in poor conditions and play an outsize role in the city’s economy.

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