Tommy Walker reports how the author and former Green Beret Michael Yon was stopped by immigration after his coverage of civil unrest in the city.
Hong Kong officials on Wednesday morning prevented Michael Yon from entering the former British colony, as he becomes the latest American to be prevented from entering the city.
Michael Yon is a former Green Beret in the U.S Special Forces. Now an author and war correspondent, he known for his time spent embedded during U.S wars with Iraq and Afghanistan. Yon has also covered the Thai coup of 2014, where he now lives. In 2019, Yon spent six months covering the Hong Kong civil unrest, reporting from the frontline.
“Am being denied entry and deported. No solid reason,” the text message read. Later, Yon said during a phone call when he returned from Thailand that he believed has flagged by the authorities on purpose. “When my name popped up, you could tell the authorities were particularly more alert on me than anybody else in room. At one point there was someone who was obviously specifically there to guard me,” he told Byline Times.
Despite this, Yon managed to take some exclusive photos inside the Hong Kong International Airport inside the immigration centre, being under tight control.
As Yon departed Hong Kong, he confirmed he had alerted the United States Embassy before signing off with the pro-democracy slogan: ‘FIGHT FOR FREEDOM! STAND WITH HONG KONG!’
A staunch critic of the Chinese Communist Party, Yon is known for his unfiltered approach. During a protest in Mongkok on New Year’s Eve, Yon called British Police District Commander, Bradley Wright, a ‘traitor’ and accused him of trading out to the CCP.
Hong Kong — which still enjoys certain freedoms and autonomy unlike mainland China since the handover from Britain in 1997 — has had months of demonstrations including violent clashes with protester and police, dating back to June of last year. Protesters in Hong Kong believe their autonomy is being encroached by Beijing, something Yon is keen to illuminate across the world.
“The censorship is going on strong”, Yon later said in a video.
Yon regular appears on the radio and has been interviewed on TV several times during the recent unrest. He shares his daring live streams to his Facebook audience of nearly 700,000 and he has his website. Yon depends on viewer donations to support his work.
what the papers don’t say
Despite pushing for a specific reason, immigration officials didn’t provide a clear answer to Yon why he was rejected from entry but did tell him had “spent a long time in Hong Kong in 2019”.
“They didn’t say I was banned for a period of time, and they have said I can try to re-enter again at anytime. People are now saying, they are letting the coronavirus in, but keeping Americans out,” Yon later joked.
When contacted by Byline Times, the Hong Kong Immigration officials refused to discuss specific cases of visitors.
Yon is the latest American to be denied entry in Hong Kong, whose work revolves around sensitive topics to Beijing. A human rights director and a photography professor were both denied entry on separate occasions just last month, while in September of 2019 an American author who had testified to the US congress about the protests was also stopped at the border.
With a landslide of pro-democracy seats taken in the District Elections in November and additional concerns about the new Coronavirus, civil unrest has quietened down for now. But with the LegCo government elections set to take place in September, the battles in Hong Kong are still far from over.